Creativity all around us! Unlimited daily access via social media brings it right in your “front door.” Perhaps you feel challenged or unsure of its place and purpose in your classroom. Unfortunately in our schools, creativity can often get pigeonholed in the Arts. Today’s future-ready classrooms are looking for it in all content areas, and finding ways for students to explore and express their creativity – maximizing student engagement. So how can you help your students recognize, react to, and appreciate all creativity?
The first step is to help them practice being open to new experiences. Guiding them to be more open to new encounters and perspectives. For instance, you could have walked up to the “smiling vegetable display” and said, “Oh, I see the one I want – the yellow one. It’s on the middle ‘shelf’.” Your role is to help students become aware of things that may have previously gone unnoticed by helping them practice using their open, unboxed imagination. Having a conversation about this photo of smiling vegetables might be a fun place to start.
Learning and honing the skill of observation is the second step. Encourage students to go on a “Wonder Walk” – on their way to school, at the mall, around their neighborhood, in the science museum, or in the heart of a big city. Challenge them to continue to see example after example of creativity everywhere – in both the Arts and Sciences.
Simply turning a corner in the grocery story and being presented with a “smiling” wall of peppers can be just the ticket. It can stop you in your tracks, make you smile – requiring you to exclaim “Cool!” “Awesome!” Imagine these reactions quickly followed by a laugh – a happy moment squeezed between a mission of grocery shopping. Initial emotional reactions to, this or any unexpected display of creativity, bring feelings of surprise, amazement, delight, or perhaps even our favorite British phrase – gobsmacked! Help your students appreciate the emotions that accompany “discovering” creativity in everyday walks of life.
Dendrites in High Gear
After the initial burst of emotions, curiosity and wonder immediately take over. “Why did they do that?” “How did they come up with that idea?” “I wonder who actually stacked the peppers that way?” “Did the stacker get in trouble with the boss, or did the boss tell the stacker to display them this way?” “Are there any other creative displays in the store?” Wow, great fuel for personal creativity explorations and discussions.
Creativity throws our dendrites into high gear! You see, the brain craves novelty! We want to know more. We began to think of other ways they could display merchandise. Cans could be stacked to create a flag around the 4th of July. Cereal boxes could be arranged to form a Christmas tree. As we looked again at the pepper display, another quotation came to mind.
“Every valuable creative idea will always be logical in hindsight.” ~ Edward de Bono
So now we looked back at the display and thought “Of course! A smiling vegetable face!” These important conversations around creativity will fuel students imaginations as they design and create their own products. A very good place to start . . . “I wonder” conversations.
It continues to get more exciting as students’ minds jump from one idea to another in response to a simple photo or display. They begin to make connections to their past, asking where had they seen this form of creativity before? For example, at the halftime show of some college football games, bands made elaborate kaleidoscopic human formations (like the pepper display) as they entertained the fans with their music. And the best part . . . students begin to think, “Hmmmmmm, I could do something like this in my work.”
Think! How did you feel after exposure to a work of creativity? Excited? Happy? Energized? Startled? Peaceful? Well, it’s time to celebrate! You observed it! You discovered it! You spun off new thoughts and ideas! It was dreamlike – marvelous creativity. Oh, Wow! The creative wealth it just brought to your life! And it will be there again tomorrow. And forever. You just have to seek it out!
What do you see when you look at the photo of peppers displayed purposely and creatively in the neighborhood grocery store? A rainbow? A smile? A . . . ? Stop for a moment, and enter the grocery store in your mind. Is your mood elevated? Do you feel a bit of excitement or appreciation for the creative endeavor? Hope it was a feeling of “awesome!”
Read our new “Awesome” Creativity Conundrum that inspired this blog post! We will be going through the alphabet with our conundrum compositions. Stay tuned!
It may be useful to examine photos of classic works (art, music, architecture) to encourage and inspire students to 1) observe more closely, 2) think more critically, 3) make new connections and 4) discuss respectfully when expressing their ideas. During the activity, students can also share different observations, perspectives, and viewpoints.
A second activity is to take students on a that Wonder Walk. Take students for a short walk around the perimeter of your school building or playground. Give students a blank sheet of paper. Ask students to jot down or sketch their observations. What is something they never noticed before? What is something they believed to be a creative solution or a creative display? When finished, return as a group to reflect and discuss.
LET’S REFLECT & REMEMBER . . .
Future-ready educators look for creativity in all content areas and find ways for students to explore and express their creativity – maximizing student engagement.
First recognizing and appreciating creativity helps students practice being open to new experiences. Learning and honing the skill of observation is the second step.
Creativity throws our dendrites into high gear! You see, the brain craves novelty!
“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
In Curiosita Creativity-Based Learning we talk about making creativity tangible and teachable. It begins with new mindset interactions. Listening and looking at things differently. When you ask your students to talk about creativity, do they get stuck in conversations involving drawing, dancing, or performing? Do they see the creative cool things around them everywhere? Do they recognize the creativity behind all the big innovations? Do they believe they are creative? Do they think of creativity as something fun to do after all the learning?
Do you believe you can make a difference in how your students understand creativity?
What we are talking about here is shifting students’ mindsets. Shaping students’ mental and emotional internal environments, as well as their physical external environments, to foster creativity. Sounds a bit daunting when we put it that way. Right?
For Your Classroom
Here’s a simple and fun place to start working on creativity mindsets. Designate a bulletin board for the display titled Creative Inspirations and Explorations. Begin by asking students to find interesting photos. Ones that “speak to them” about creativity. Tell them to think of this as building a creativity wall collage together. One that can go on and on and on! Emphasize they are searching for images that excite them, or as we like to say, “Knock My Socks Off (K.M.S.O.).”
You will notice the lines begin to blur between environments as you design your classroom (external environment) in fun, funky, and flexible ways to get brains (internal environment) churning with ideas and possibilities.
Five Mindset Conversation Starters:
What is Creativity: Have students share their thoughts about their favorite photo. Why is it creative?
Ideas, Designs & Stories: Encourage everyone to go to the Creative Inspirations and Explorations bulletin board when looking for fodder for an idea, design, or story they are pondering.
Arts & Sciences: Designate themes: science, space, general creativity, music, etc. Challenge students to recognize creativity in both Arts & Sciences.
Creativity in Everyday Life: Select a photo and have students write for one minute using a creative comment stem like: How might we? What if? I wonder . . . as journal prompts?
K.M.SO. Creativity: Have students randomly select a letter of the alphabet and search for something creative that begins with that letter. Encourage them to find ones that K.M.S.O. to share!
Plan for frequent meetings at the Creative Inspirations & Explorations wall collage to chat about creativity! Be sure to share some of your favorites!
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creativity is tangible and teachable!
Creative, cool things are all around you.
You can help shape your students external and internal environments.
Nature gives us glorious creative visions with the coming of each season. Spring is an especially enchanting display of objects that catch our eye and capture our imaginations. We took this inspiring photo as we walked through Denver Botanic Gardens. When we approached the tree from a distance it looked like a tree full of roosting birds. As we moved nearer, we could see that it was an azalea tree in full bloom with white flowing petals that looked like cats, helicopter blades, and jellyfish. What are some of your perceptions?
What is it?
What is perception, and what does it have to do with creativity? Perhaps a helpful way to think of perception is to look at some synonyms: insight, awareness, acuity, discernment, observation, and viewpoint. All may have a different emphasis, but they are similar in meaning.
Creativity involves changes in perception; in other words, a newfound way of looking at or viewing something. Perception allows us to look at something and see something different than that seen by others. This is a prerequisite skill to being able to produce at any level of creativity. In our classrooms we noticed that students who were more flexible in changing their perceptions demonstrated higher levels of creativity . . . it’s a sign!
Mental Filters or Perceptual Blocks?
To be more efficient and effective thinkers, we all have mental filters that help us disregard or ignore minor stimuli in our environment. If this did not happen, we would have to pay attention to every minor detail, we would perhaps be prone to sensory overload, and we would never get anything done. However, this very system that facilitates successful thinking often interferes with creative thinking.
Adams (2001) in his classic book Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, refers to these natural filters as perceptual blocks. They can be cognitive, emotional, or environmental in nature and include:
Fear of taking an intellectual risk.
Fear of making a mistake or failing.
No appetite for chaos or ambiguity.
Fear of the unknown or a need for security.
Judging, stereotypes, and preconceived ideas.
Fear of criticism, ridicule, rejection, or just being different.
Acquiescing to: “The way it’s supposed to be” and “The way it has always been” or “If it ain’t broke . . .”
Clinging to reason and logic versus imagination and innovation.
Past Predictions of the Future
Take a moment to consider another category of perceptual roadblocks to creativity in these Past Predictions of the Future. It is amazing to look back at the predictions made by some experts in their fields and see how unrealistic and even laughable they are today. Epicetus stated it somewhat differently, “What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.”
What if everyone believed the following and acted accordingly:
“This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” -Western Union internal memo (1876)
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office (1899)
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman, IBM (1943)
“There is no reason for an individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olsen, President, DEC (1977)
“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” – Bill Gates, Microsoft (1981)
Logic vs. Perception
Edward de Bono states, “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” This makes sense, as the emphasis is traditionally placed in the secure truth of logic rather than the ambiguity and capriciousness of perception. In other words, we often continue to see the world as we initially perceive it, not the way it can be.
For Your Classroom
Here is the dilemma. Our practical and useful mental filters can get in the way and become perceptual blocks when we need to think creatively. If we want our students to learn to think more creatively, the major challenge is to teach them ways to temporarily suspend or ignore these perceptual blocks.
One simple activity is looking at photos like the one above, the clouds or stars in the sky, and creating your own interpretations. You can find our favorites in The Curiosita Handbook of Instructional Strategies and by Googling divergent thinking activities.
Flexibility exercises must be practiced daily to produce changes in the malleability (stretching) of the brain. This is an essential trait of the creative mind. It opens the doors to changes in perceptions.
The ability to form diverse perceptions is one of the essential steps in becoming a more creative thinker. Being aware of the role perception plays in our creative thinking, and knowing we have the ability to actively or intentionally change our perception, is part of the growth mindset of creativity. We can teach students through frequent practice to throw off their mental chains and open their minds to improved creative thinking.
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creativity involves changes in perception.
The ability to form perceptions is an essential step in becoming a more creative thinker.
Perceptual blocks interfere with creative thinking.
We have tools to help us temporarily ignore or suspend perceptual blocks.
. . . and finally we will leave you with a new perception of the beautiful blooming azalea flower.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
Ambassador I. Rhonda King, Permanent Representative to the United Nations from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, delivered a speech to the General Assembly in support for World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21. This resolution was voted to become a UN Day of Observance.
It is so decided . . .
World Creativity and Innovation Day is proclaimed by the UN! “Few attributes of human performance have as much impact on our lives and our world as creativity. Outstanding achievements in the Arts and Sciences depends on creativity. Creativity has been linked to the development of new social institutions and the leadership of . . . Ambassador Kings’s speech at the UN April 21, 2017.
As educators, we are thrilled this has happened in our lifetimes. Creativity is the essence of human potential. Waiting to be realized in every student! This proclamation will open many classroom doorways and pave the way for creativity to be seen as essential mindsets, toolsets, and skillsets for all students.
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creativity changes children’s lives.
Creativity changes the world.
Creativity . . . for every student, every teacher, every, every parent, every school . . . Every Day!
“Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything. Life is about creating yourself and creating things.” ~ Bob Dylan
Many beliefs and commonly held ideas are revealed as untruths over time. Through cycles of personal evolution, individually and collectively, we come to realize these “untruths” were indeed based on inaccurate or limited available information. Our modern, rapidly expanding technological database of facts and figures allow us to quickly move these “untruths” into the myths category.
The more resilient versions of these myths spring from cultural stories passed down through generations. For instance, it’s hard to imagine a time when people believed the earth was flat. This “reality” was based on what they could observe and the tales of travelers. The world actually started to become “un-flat” in 330 B.C. when scientific observations led to discovering its curvature and spherical shape. Yet the most prevalent myth held by the majority of the population of the middle ages – the world was flat!
Five Creativity Myths
Creativity can be a confusing topic and at times a somewhat elusive concept. On-going creativity myths and misconceptions may color individual perceptions. So, let’s start by dispelling five classical myths associated with creativity.
Mysterious: Creativity is a rare form of genius possessed by only a few people. It comes from some outside source and you cannot control it. We know so little about it.
Mystical: Creativity is an elusive phenomenon that evaporates or vanishes if you try to look at it too closely or study it in depth. It is believed it to be ethereal or a gift bestowed on a few.
Madness: Creative behavior is bizarre, bordering on mental illness. Creative individuals are strange, odd, and weird. It is viewed as an anti-social or unhealthy behavior.
Magical: Creativity involves trickery, not substance. It’s like watching a magician performing and being in the audience trying to figure out the “trick.” Many think they cannot work the “magic.”
Merriment: Creativity involves behavior that is totally spontaneous and undisciplined. It doesn’t happen with any forethought or planning. It is used to entertain and surprise us.
If you subscribe to all or parts of any of these myths, you probably will have some initial difficulty believing creativity can be developed and nurtured in all individuals. You may also be apprehensive about discussing your personal creativity with others. And worst of all you may even believe you are not creative! Let’s change that together!
Perhaps the biggest myth of all is the belief that creativity cannot be taught. At Curiosita Teaching, we counter this by adhering to the following formula (and a few other things):
Even now in the 21st century, myths and misconceptions prevail in the fields of medicine and science. These are fodder for great debates, family discussions, and fun and challenging investigations. A good place to start is debunking the 5 classic myths of creativity!
For Your Classroom
We invite you to take the challenge of teaching creative and critical thinking tools to your students. As you do so, you will see levels of creative abilities begin to evolve . . . as you do with any other learning concept introduced into the classroom.
Another myth we’d like to dispel is the belief that creativity is housed in the Arts. Our world exists as it is today due to the creativity in the Sciences, as well in all fields of endeavor.
What more worthwhile exposure could you offer your students? Prepare them with the mindsets, toolsets, and skillsets that will set their creativity free!
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creativity can be a confusing topic.
On-going creativity myths and misconceptions may color our perceptions.
Creativity exists in the Sciences as well as the Arts.
Creativity can be taught!
“No amount of training will create a da Vinci or Edison. But it is also true that everyone’s capacity for creative living and creative thinking can be increased.”
“I’m not much of a math and science guy. I spent most of my time in school daydreaming and managed to turn it into a living.”~ George Lucas
George Lucas has always gone rogue. It started with his “lack of enthusiasm” for traditional school experiences. He describes himself as a “consummate underachieving student” of the worst kind. Allowing his first passion for race cars to override any interest in learning the prescribed reading, writing, and arithmetic. Dreaming of and drawing pictures of race cars were his favorite classroom pastimes – no matter the subject matter. Fate intervened in a life-changing way when he survived a near fatal car accident a few weeks before his high school graduation. Listen to George’s life-changing story and advice on how to live a passionate, joyful life.
What is Rogue?
As a noun, rogue can be defined as “somebody who is mischievous.” As an adjective, it is someone who is “unorthodox and unpredictable.” At first glance, these definitions seem negative. But we are guessing someone or several someones in your life come to mind. Perhaps you teach highly creative learners and have noticed some of their “rogue” behaviors. They often dress, speak, think, write . . . differently. And oh, the varied responses these behaviors elicit: joy, giggles, frustration, anger . . . and most often some version of being gobsmacked – our favorite British term for being blown away. And if and when they become successful that’s exactly what they do! They blow us away with their creative solutions and innovations – voila, George Lucas movies!
“The secret is to not give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side.”~ George Lucas
Sad But True
So now you know the sad but true story of how George, like many other famous creatives, came to the brink of financial doom before being discovered. This is a timeline you might be able to change by intervening in students’ lives. Teaching young learners how to think creatively and critically gives them the confidence needed to pursue creative interests that may someday become professional passions. Early exposure and working creatively in a variety of content areas may lead to better career decisions and pathways. What if George had opportunities to explore his race car, art, and photography passions while in school?
The Universe Expands
George Lucas created the space opera franchise, depicting the adventure stories of a bevy of creatively different characters. Rogue One is the firstin what is known as the Star Wars Anthology series. These “spin-off” movies exist within the vast, ever expanding, universe George Lucas created. These films are “stand-alone” productions, but are definitely off-shoots of the original saga. And isn’t it cool that they named this first spinoff from George’s work – Rogue One? Challenging students to create new storylines, connected to but different from the original ones, is a great opportunity for practicing creative thinking skills.
“Education is the foundation of our democracy – the stepping-stones for our youth to reach their full potential.” ~ George Lucas
What a marvelous word ! Because of his belief in education, George Lucas established a foundation dedicated to transforming K-12 education so that all students can acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives. He believes creativity is one of the 5 key principles of how people learn. To find out more and discover more about the educational resources, go to Edutopia.
For Your Classroom
Go “rogue!” Break away from traditional curricular practices. Expose your students to a wide variety of interest and passion areas. Plan for in-depth study and product development opportunities so they can “test out” their likes and dislikes early in their education.
“Students learning in “educational closets” may not find their passions in time to lead a successful and productive life.” ~ Patti Garrett Shade
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creative skills are important for professional success and happiness.
Creative interests and talents should be uncovered early in education.
Product development is key to practicing the skills of creativity.