Creative Solutions

Human beings have a creative side that tends to shine most when we are truly invested in the world around us. Describe a situation when you responded effectively to a particular need and found yourself at your creative best

With all the commotion I heard, I thought someone had set a batch of chocolate chip cookies on fire again. But the world of a high school dorm is seldom that predictable. No, nothing was burning. The sophomore girls running into my room sweated and teared and gasped not out of reaction to some current catastrophe, but rather out of fearful anticipation for tomorrow’s polyatomic ions quiz.

The polyatomic ions quiz is completely tantalizing, so I understood how they felt; what I didn’t understand was how to help. I had completed two years of chemistry, so the extended list of polyatomic ions could easily be recited in my sleep. And from what I best remember, the way I learned was straight memorization.

But looking around, that’s not something I could tell them. They expected me to have an answer, so I started creating one. I sat them down in a little semi circle on my carpet, grabbed a notebook and a sharpie, and started writing. Then I stopped. They didn’t like numbers. At the moment, they didn’t really like science either. The best thing I could do for them right then was to turn something hated and unfamiliar into something they knew and loved. Sophomore girls love drama. So I started telling stories.

I started with “Clo,” a woman who had three kittens, and she died. Her name was the elements, the three kittens represented the subscript, and the charge the loss of life:ClO31-.She was only the beginning. I continued to add characters based on ions, slowly making my way through the entire list. Occasionally, the girls would chime in and add key sub-plots, and together we would laugh and talk about our made up characters lives. At times, I forgot that what we were talking about was actually chemistry, and I’m sure they did too. Before we knew it, we had woven an entire world within the polyatomic ions.

The next morning, the chemistry teacher stopped me in the hallway and congratulated me on my girls doing so well on their quiz. She noticed some odd little scribblings of phrases and sketches of people in the margin of each of their quizzes, and had absolutely no idea what they meant. To her, they meant nothing. For the girls, ClO31 will always be just “Clo.” But to me, the ions will always represent more: a passageway towards a world that combines innovation and imagination.

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