How to develop spatial thinking and what for

How to develop spatial thinking and what for

“A child’s fantasy is limitless, that’s why it is vitally important to reveal it, develop and put into life”  

What is spatial thinking, why is it necessary for every human and what “instruments” must be used in order to develop the children’s spatial thinking – tells the teacher of “Creative workshop” course in CISC, award winner of three “Teacher of the year” contests, Iryna Gavryliuk.

1. What is spatial thinking and what is its main function?

Spatial thinking means the ability to think in 3D, to generate ideas, to draw in imagination; it’s an important type of intellectual activity and one of the most important skills for every human. Therefore, our main task is teaching a child how to think through the prism of creativity. Even the motto of our school is “School that teaches how to think”. If a child learns to contemplate and think spatially, then the technical aspects in creating compositions, drawings, architectural constructions will be mastered much easier. All my lessons start with the quesitons which stimulate contemplation. I do everything I can in order for the children’s brains to be activated through creative work.

In the school hall we have a mural 3D installation “Indian Ocean”. This installation is the result of the children’s creativity and spatial thinking. Once, I shared with my students the impressions from my journey to the Indian Ocean, I told them about everything I’ve seen and everything that impressed me. The children drew it in their imaginations, sketched on paper, and then we decided to make it into a 3D picture. It turns out that a child’s fantasy is limitless, that’s why it is vitally important to reveal it, develop and put into life.

2. Spatial thinking – is it more of an innate quality or rather a skill that is to be mastered and constantly trained?   

Undoubtedly, spatial thinking is a skill to be mastered by constant training. With some children, realizing spatial ideas is very easy, while others require more effort and attention. But it’s all manageable, every child just needs a special approach.

3. As the result of what is the spatial thinking formed?

It is my opinion that each school discipline stimulates the development of some part of spatial thinking, one of its aspects. For instance, how is spatial thinking developed during literature studies? The children read stories and create the pictures in their minds, they imagine. And afterwards, at Creative Workshop, we put those pictures to life through compositions, installations, architectural constructions, 3D pictures. Math is also of great assistance, especially when the children study “Perspective” topic.

If we work on developing the spatial thinking at all classes – physics, mathematics, chemistry, logic, then such work will have an amazing effect.

4. With which “creative instruments” can spatial thinking be developed? How do you do it at Creative Workshop in CISC?

First of all, we have to incite a child to thought and contemplation. Thinking is the “top class” in every profession. I always require that the children give well-thought-out idea, since without it spatial thinking can not be developed. Before we start making anything with hands, it’s important for me to know what the child dreams about and how imagines it.

For example, we have to decorate a Christmas tree. I recall how we made our first Christmas tree of grain, the second one – from wood and threads, the third one was fully sown and painted. And now our task is to generate the idea of a Christmas tree totally different from those before. We contemplate, we make sketches on paper, then we vote for the most original idea and realize it in volume. The ideas our students generate are cosmic!

I would like to give a few more examples. Once, our topic was “Illusion”. We recreated everything backwards, as if in reflection. The other time I gathered various objects in a bag and offered each student to pick one without looking, create a story connected with that object and put it on paper.  At one of the lessons, the children created a time machine from materials at hand, based on their own fantasies… These are the cheapest “instruments”.

5. In what professions spatial thinking is a must?

It is impossible to become a succesful architect or designer without the ability to think spatially. That’s why the Creative Workshop studies are so important. And I trace a close connection between exact sciences and spatial thinking.

6. At what age should we start developing spatial thinking?

In our Weekend school the children study from the age of 5. It is the very period to start. Of course, it’s more difficult to work on developing spatial thinking with younger children, but possible.

I recall we had a topic “Following Leonardo da Vinci”. I told the children about his works, and then they had the task to create something of their own based on what they have seen and learned. The children created moving compositions, which is an immense step ahead.

7. A few lifehacks from you. How can we organize the game activities at home with a view to developing the spatial thinking?

First of all, we have to ask the child constantly about his/her interests. The children are often glad to tell about what impressed them today, surprised, made them laugh or brought joy. Sometimes a child may recall only the tasty lunch, and it’s a matter for thought. We can discuss it, create the design of kitchen, for example, or make something theme-related with construction blocks.

Starting from early days, my daughter found interest in everything related to architecture and constantly told me about the things that were of interest to her. And we immersed into a certain  topic together and constructed, so we always could recreate something interesting from materials at hand.

Visiting museums is very beneficial for the development of spatial thinking. We talked about water- then we went to the Museum of water; we talked about books – then we went to the Museum of ancient books. For example, we went to Radomyshl city together with my daughter, and there is a museum where anyone interested can produce paper out of grass. Such moments bring unforgettable emotions

It’s wonderful if the parents actively participate in their chil’ds life, and the development of spatial thinking, if they are attentive to the things their child is interested in and support them.


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