A New Way of Critical Thinking

April 4, 2017

By Molly Madden

I had just finished a meditation with Mr. Garcia on a hot Saturday afternoon in August and it was time to move on to the next activity. Mr. Baker, the new activity instructor, told me that I had to decide if I was a North, South, East or West based on different types of character traits. I found out that I was a south, meaning that I am a team player, patient, generous, and understanding. This was the first time that I remember thinking critically in MarinSEL. Starting from day one of the MarinSEL retreat we were taught to use critical thinking, and as the year has progressed it has become an even more common tool leading students to success.

Critical thinking means “mode of thinking about any subject, content, or problem in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it” (critical thinking community). This type of thinking originates in the prefrontal cortex or frontal cortex of the brain. This area is responsible for decision making, organization, and thinking skills. The most important reason is that it helps us think more deeply and reflect on what we are doing. It also helps us problem solve and determine alternative ways to work.  MarinSEL uses the 4 C’s: Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Communication in its curriculum, but in every lesson of every day, we are using this skill.

In every class period of every day, critical thinking is incorporated. In these past weeks in English, I read the book Bless Me Ultima, a story about a little boy that grows up in New Mexico. While annotating this story I thought critically by pulling apart the dreams and making sense of them. One example: “We must take with us the blood that comes after birth and bury it in the field to renew their fertility and to assure that the baby will follow our ways” (Anaya 26). This quote resembles how after the crops have been harvested they need to be left out in the fields to die and decompose into the soil so that it can help the little sproutlings for the next year survive.   In Geography, I am assigned “Coffee Shops.” This is when I bring in an article and discuss it within a group. I then come up with an intuitive question that will provide lots of response and debate. While debating, my classmates and I have conversations that respond to the question asked, and we do this by expressing our own opinions. One important conversation was about the water crisis. In this particular country, the water wasn’t being dispersed evenly among the agriculture and the big city, and while conversing some people thought that it was a huge problem while others didn’t.  In Seminar class, I often take quizzes or tests telling me what kind of leader I am and also what personality type I am.  After doing the Myers-Briggs test I found that I was an ENFJ (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging). After I received these results, I felt the results matched me perfectly because I am such an extroverted person that also has empathy for others.   Finally in Biology, I participate in labs and fun thinking activities like making models of the functions of DNA and RNA. Not only is critical thinking important in school work, but also in LEAD projects.

In our schoolwork, especially LEAD projects, thought process is crucial. Lots of work is put into these projects and lots of thinking is involved. For example, coming up with creative ideas, making appointments with community partners, thinking of activities that will not only teach kids but entertain them.  In relation to the other 4C’s, I think that critical thinking is one of the most important. It is used in problem solving, organizing dates to go and talk to the students and middle school students, and finally working on the pieces of the puzzle like presentations and creative projects that complete the LEAD project.

Critical thinking is an essential tool that will be needed throughout my life that I will need to use, working with people or for companies. Without the MarinSEL program I would not learn as much as I have about thinking critically. In my future years I will be able to incorporate the skills that I derived from this fashion of thinking while talking with fellow business peers. I can also run a successful campaign and gain different perspectives. Critical thinking is a tool for success and with the path that I am on, and the teachings of MarinSEL I will do just fine in the big world.