Irn Bru Sausages – Creativity Gone Bad!

Okay, let me clear this up. If you are unaware of the delights of Irn Bru, Scotland’s ‘other National drink’, it might be simpler to describe it as a bright amber fizzy drink which, perhaps, has been one of the main reasons Scotland has the worst dental record in the Western world. Small, ginger and potentially bad for your teeth. Think Billy Bremner, Jimmy Johnstone and Gordon Strachan all rolled into one, to use an even more obscure Scottish cultural reference. Irn bru sausages, on the other hand, are slightly harder to explain.

So how do I ‘link’ sausages to Creativity? Even the most confident of us would find that a struggle, probably, but I’ll give it a go. You see, it should be difficult to avoid the word ‘creativity’ in education these days even if you wanted to. The word itself is spattered liberally throughout the Curriculum for Excellence documents here in Scotland and it would seem unthinkable that teachers wouldn’t include creative elements in lesson plans every day. Why wouldn’t you?

Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as ‘the process of having original ideas that have value’ and his wonderfully inspiring book, ‘The Element’ provides a context to this while describing the ingredients required for children to develop this creativity. Inspiring our kids to produce new things which ‘have value’ should be the sole purpose of education.
Having just finished Phil Beale’s great wee book, ‘Dancing About Architecture’, I’ve been thinking about new ideas for creativity in the classroom almost constantly. In the book he quotes from James Webb Young’s ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’, that:


‘a person with a propensity to produce ideas will be someone who sees the relationship between things; relationships that are not obvious on first sight.’

(Dancing About Architecture, p.120)


He suggests, I think, that as part of In-service Days  we should match subjects to random activities and sports, for example, Maths and Cricket, and ask the Maths Department to come up with ways to teach Maths through Cricket. On a personal level, this sounds like a great way to add spark to the more mundane aspects of teaching English. Badminton pronouns, anyone? Croquet connectors? I could have some real fun with this idea next term.

However, it raises some really important issues about cross-curricular learning. I welcome the potential opportunities that the Curriculum for Excellence offers when encouraging departments to work together. The only way we are ever going to inspire and convince all children that what we teach is important to their lives is if we start to tear down the artificial barriers of subject division and begin to link things together.

However, if there are some sports which just don’t seem to work well with a subject – Water Polo algebra, off the top of my head – then is it too much to expect every subject to be able to work with every other? In our desperate struggle to embed cross-curricular learning, is there a danger of forcing subjects together which clearly don’t work?

I like chocolate and I like marshmallows: therefore chocolate marshmallows must be a little piece of heaven. However, I like irn bru and I like sausages…

Perhaps as we plan new courses and a new curriculum we need to be very focused and specific about what we want our students to be able to do by the end of their learning. Be certain of what you want to achieve. Otherwise you may end up with Irn Bu sausages…

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