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New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Grasshopper Thinking 

Creativity through association and disobedience 



Have you ever had one of those moments when you’re chatting away with someone and you share an idea that just popped into your head, which to you, seems entirely related to the conversation, but the other person just looks at you as if to say, “What the heck are you on about?” Do I hear you saying “uh-huh’” and see you nodding your head ever so slightly? I had one of these moments recently. The topic was perspective drawing and it led me to thinking about principles of perception more broadly. The first thing to float past my consciousness was Bernoulli’s principle, which is all about fluid dynamics as they relate to pressure and speed, but this wasn’t quite the idea I was trying to associate, although I could recognise why that sprang to mind. I was thinking more along the lines (and please excuse the pun) of how our perceptions of sound change as they get further away or closer, much like how we see buildings and other objects in our images with a vanishing point getting larger the closer we are to them and smaller as the further away from us they are. I might as well as have moved on to a completely different topic as far as the person I had been conversing with was concerned, but in my head, there were strong connections. (In case you were wondering, it was the “Doppler Effect” and “Red shift” I was thinking about.)

My Mum refers to this way of seamlessly leaping from one idea to the next as “grasshopper thinking.” I love this term. It makes total sense to me. When I visualise this idea it takes me straight to the image of a mind-map which makes these links more visible ... which then leads me to June Maker’s work on using mind maps to make more in-depth associations and show learning ... which leads me to ...well you get the picture right? Grasshopper thinking in action. *Wink, wink.*

In reference to research into the activity in brains of subjects who were identified as gifted learners (and bear in mind this may not be as broad a definition as we have here in New Zealand), Eide and Eide discuss that the

“orchestration of activity is planned and complex, and it seems to require the coordination of diverse visual, spatial, verbal, and sensory areas of the brain. Gifted thinkers are rarely one-mode thinkers. Rather, they are great organizers of diverse and multimodal information...This multimodality means that gifted thinkers often make connections in ways other people don’t. They frequently have special abilities in associational thinking (including analogy and metaphor) and in analytical or organizational skills (through which diverse associations are understood and systematized).”


In my mind, this is where grasshopper thinking fits in, with the association of ideas that come from a range of sensory inputs and cognitive processes which reach across diverse areas of the brain. While there are undoubtedly neurological differences which are conducive to naturally-occurring associative thinking, the great news is that this is a skill which can be developed. But why might we want to weave opportunities for this skill to be developed in our gifted kids? Well, over and above recognising this as an intrinsic part of the way some gifted individuals are, another good reason is creativity.

The Complexity Labs share that “Creativity is related to broad activation through associative/heuristic networks, allowing seemingly unrelated information to be related.” It would seem from this that developing associative thinking holds great potential for our kids in the form of creativity and what this offers.


Including some of the suggestions from Life Labs, opportunities for open-ended creativity would appear to be a fun approach to helping our kids develop:

  • self-esteem, strengthen skills which buffer against any adviser effects of perfectionism, as there is no right or wrong in the creative process;
  • self-awareness and communication skills as they explore ways to express themselves;
  • self-belief as they learn to trust their ideas and instincts, learning through trialing new ideas, and working through an iterative process of development;
  • mindfulness and contentment, with a focus on the now in the creative process and enjoyment in both process and outcomes;
  • problem-solving, thinking, and process skills;
  • and increased resilience.


Now, here’s the bit your kids will appreciate: a valid excuse for more screen time. Creativity, as a result of associative thinking which has stretched beyond the expected, is role modeled beautifully for our kids on many a YouTube channel, and not just those which are home to viral videos either. Cue Andrew Huang, and The Q  - and for those of you adults who enjoy this sort of thinking, then you may (or may not) appreciate the previously aired Taskmaster television series. Cue banana camouflage.

But here’s the kicker. Creativity comes hand in hand with questioning and non-conformity; disobedient thinking as Welby Ings refers to it. But fear not, for he also goes on to explain that, “This is a precious thing, this ability to disobey. It’s not a bad thing. It’s the precious thing we have as human beings to adapt and refine.” Were you expecting that? If you haven’t heard him talk before, here’s your chance:



All in all, creativity is a powerful way of responding to the world; introducing new ways of looking at things, with the potential to disrupt, bring change and even shift culture. In teaching the next generation to question, develop and use associative and creative thinking, we are empowering them not only to be strong in themselves but also more equipped to lead change. Pretty awesome stuff! We certainly encourage this in our MindPlus, Gifted Online, and Small Poppies classes.

On a slightly less serious note, for a bit of fun - and maybe as a reminder to ourselves and our kids that thinking outside the square is great and should be celebrated - or perhaps that should read ‘look at the square in a different way’ given the content of this last video - here is a ‘how-to’ for making jumping origami grasshoppers.



The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education invites you to take up the challenge; enjoy making leaps, and have fun with the creative process.



'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a virtual cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

 Image credit: Grasshopper by Red Junasun is licenced under CC BY 2.0. The image has been modified.

Grasshopper Thinking

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