Posted: 28 February, 2024

From Poetry to Prototype – Bringing Ideas to Life

Arts, Blog, In the Press, Jo Sharrock, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, STEAM, STEM

Putney has always had a love affair with poetry. Our annual poetry festival, a highlight of the school year, is an arresting display of passion and prose, filled with creativity and with a healthy dose of wit thrown in. This year’s festival even featured its first AI category, with one experimental poem, created by machine learning, sitting with its critique alongside works by human authors.

Today, research by Internet Matters tells us that 44% of children are actively engaging with generative AI tools, with over half of those using them to complete home or schoolwork. With such large numbers so excited to embrace this new technology at school, how will this impact original thinking? Does teaching poetry, and all the other ways our students learn to think differently, still have significance today?

Poetry has for Putney students always held a special allure—perhaps an antidote to a world of fleeting and often less edifying digital content. Packed with meaning and emotion, it can be a way of bringing ideas to life, engaging with different experiences. Importantly, it is a way of thinking differently that not only has value in itself but that has an impact far beyond the creative arts.

Poems can really pack a punch, but as an artform, what is their appeal?

Freedom plays a part, as poetry offers a literary outlet unrestrained by rules or convention. A poem offers boundless opportunities; the release of something previously unknown. Where an essay or other forms of writing—academic papers, analysis, even journalism—are generally restricted by the need to capture and comprehend something known, a poem can be idiosyncratic, a flight of fancy of the author’s choosing, the expression of abstract thoughts and ideas through words and rhythm.

For the reader, engaging with a poem isn’t without risk. A window on another’s mind can offer a deeper understanding of stories and emotions outside of our own experience, but in return it asks something of us: the readiness to become passengers on an unknown path, possibly to hidden depths, to great discoveries, or challenging ideas hitherto unsaid.

All of this can take courage, for the poet, and the reader! Poetry can amuse and elate but it can also distress, anger and provoke. To engage with it fully requires curiosity, empathy, even the willingness to soul-search. What fine qualities for young people to develop.

Freedom, imagination, creativity, even risk-taking, these typify so much of the Putney experience; in the creative arts of course, but more widely, in the kind of mindset Putney High School seeks to build.

The courage to think differently, push boundaries and take the road untrodden is an attitude of mind we very much encourage, and which is borne out every day, not just in English classes and art studios, but in design thinking, debating, PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) and the many challenging academic interests our students pursue.

This year we have seen record number of applications for Arkwright scholarships. A career in engineering is on the wish list of increasing numbers of girls and every day they hone their skills in the Innovation Hub and Product Design room, researching and refining their ideas, developing prototypes and finding imaginative ways to problem-solve. Creative thinking takes so many forms and when encouraged, unrestricted, the possibilities seem endless.

As history will attest, it is not just actions, but ideas that can change the world. Recognising the good ones when they come along and having the courage to pursue them takes a special kind of mindset. It requires imagination, vision, the willingness to take a risk, and a good deal of resilience when things invariably don’t go to plan. These are the parts of the challenge which any successful entrepreneur will recognise and which our students are learning to relish.

From poetry to prototype, these bright minds are the problem-solvers of the future and along the way they are building a host of aptitudes that even the most “intelligent” machines will struggle to develop. The boundaries and implications of the path we tread may yet be unknown but with creativity and the boldness to think differently, what an exciting journey it will be.

Find out more about Original Thinking at Putney

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