There’s nothing more rewarding than working with a group of educators excited and motivated to bring creativity into the lives of their students. When we returned from our second session with Atlanta Public Schools Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) elementary teachers, we were amazed to see what they had accomplished in just two short months since our first training.
We held a “Share Fair” during lunch so teachers could display and discuss the products and strategies they used to help students learn using creative strategies and tools.
“I started with Think Tanks templates. My students loved it!”
“Every day in my classroom now begins with a creative brain exercise.”
“It was so easy to start implementing the Curiosita strategies.”
The Magnifying Power of SCAMPER
We challenged the teachers to use S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to create a classroom of their dreams. In 14 minutes they shared 137 ideas for improving the design of classrooms! Here are some of the unique ideas generated by a group of 75 enthusiastic teachers:
Substitute knee desks, wobble chairs, or treadmill desks for student desks.
Combine computers with student desks and have popup computers on desktops.
Adapt all bulletin boards to be digital to display student work products.
Magnify the size and function of interactive white board. Make them wall size and use them flexibly as Lego walls, touch screens, and virtual reality screens.
Put the closets in classroom to another use, such as making it a recording studio.
Eliminate all outlets and create virtual power pads on each student desk.
Reverse ceiling tiles to be drop-downs that become interactive learning stations at the touch of a button.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a powerful checklist tool created by Bob Eberle. You can use this tool with students to magnify and extend the number and types of ideas generated from any brainstorming session. The letterprompts can be used for any problem-solving situation:
Improving a relationship
Designing a new product
Creating a better organization
Decorating a room
Fixing something broken
For Your Classroom
We love it when teachers use their creativity in our session feedback forms. Here are a few of our favorite “Kreative Komments” from Atlanta.
Drawing and sketching thoughts and ideas is also a fun way to get your students inspired to share more creatively with you and their peers. Drawings could capture their day, thoughts about events or happenings, or even . . . content reflections!
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Using tools improves creative output.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R extends and enhances thinking.
Creative teaching energizes, engages, and excites educators.
There are many easy ways to “dip your toe” into teaching with and for creativity.
“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” ~Jean Piaget
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.
Grandpa was in the garage working on building a dollhouse when eight-year-old granddaughter Ella walked in and asked, “Can I help?” “Sure,” he replied. “Why don’t you hand me a screwdriver?” She paused for a moment, her eyes sparkled, and she asked, “Do you want the “plus or minus?” Grandpa got a puzzled look on his face and then broke into a big grin and said, “Oh, I get it – please pass the “Plus” screwdriver!” Ella said, “See, this one looks like the plus sign we use when we are doing addition in school and the other one reminds me of the minus sign we use for subtraction.” Grandpa’s eyes sparkled and he said, “Wow, Ella that’s really fun thinking – from now on that’s what we’ll call the Phillips and Flathead screwdrivers!”
Ella’s association of a screwdriver with the mathematical symbols of minus (-) and plus (+) represents an individual level of creative thinking. What’s important to realize is that every time a student, anywhere around the globe, has the same “aha” moment with screwdrivers, they are demonstrating the same individual level of creatively. Perhaps you might wonder if this is a novel or unique way of thinking. You can test it out by asking a group of adults how many have made the plus and minus association with screwdrivers – prepare to be surprised!
As students continue to make creative connections, their individual expressions of creativity may rub off on classmates. Team or group levels of creativity may then someday lead to innovations in organizations, countries, and even the world. As you can see, there is an “exponential potential” in recognizing and finding value in creativity at all levels. Kaufman and Beghetto (2009) formally identify four developmental levels of creativity:
Mini-c:Any time one attempts a new task, a level of creativity is involved. What one creates is not revolutionary, but new and meaningful to them. Example: Your first time sketching a picture. You feel pretty good about it – perhaps feeling some degree of self-satisfaction.
Little-c: Improvements are made in your skill level and content, and the creation may be of some value to others. Example: You share your sketch with others who encourage you through feedback.
Pro-c:The ability to be creative at a professional level. You would have had many years of practice and training. Example: You take classes and enter works in juried shows. Eventually your works hang in galleries and you are recognized by art experts and critics as being creative.
Big-C:You and your body of work are now remembered in history books. Example: Your works hang in famous galleries and are regularly discussed by experts. Decades from now, you will be considered one of the greatest artists of all time.
Although well intentioned, viewing all interactions as “teachable moments” derails creative exploration. The moment Ella picked up the screwdriver, Grandpa could have said, “Now Ella, we call that a Phillips head screwdriver.” The conversation, the thinking, and the creativity would have ended right there – a sure fire method to weaken the curiosity-creativity link. So, the next time you are about to provide your student with a “correct answer” question, stop and consider asking one of these provocative questions:
Would it be possible . . .?
Have you explored . . .?
What if . . .?
How else might . . .?
I wonder . . .?
Wouldn’t it be funny if . . .?
What other . . .?
Can you imagine . . .?
Creativity often begins when simple observations meet up with child-like curiosity. This open-mindedness, coupled with a desire to learn more about the world, changes the way children interact with their environment and each other. Encouraging comments like the ones Grandpa shared with Ella nurture and support the development of future “curiosity-creativity links.” Grandpa’s modeling of his own creativity in his “doll-house” workshop will forever be imprinted in Ella’s memories as a fun and engaging moment. And even more importantly, when Ella enters the world of work in 2030, she will have practice using the mindsets and skillsets needed to be creatively productive and successful.
For Your Classroom
The conversations that spin off from the provocative questions mentioned above strengthen the curiosity-creativity link – opening doorways to wonder and exploration. Here’s one you might try with your students. Ask them, “How many ways might you come to school?” Note the word might. What a difference in excitement and engagement levels when the word might is emphasized! It affords the freedom, yes, even the permission, to think creatively. Our favorite response so far – a magic carpet ride!
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
There are four developmental levels of creativity.
Well intentioned “teachable moments” can derail creative exploration.
Asking provocative questions can strengthen the “curiosity-creativity link.”
“Discovery (creativity) consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
For many of us, childhood memories of Christmas, or any of the seasonal or cultural holiday celebrations, are fondly remembered as magical and carefree times. As adults, we’ve noticed taking on all the “getting ready” can sometimes fill up those memories spaces with huge doses of exhaustion and anxiousness. Taking time to design annual family creative activities can be one way to make more room for play and relaxation.
Schools can become a center of hustle and bustle. That “look forward to” break can feel like a time when creativity is also put on hold. The Christmas season is supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable, and fun time with friends and family. However, many of us overcommit, overload lists, overspend, and overeat. In general, we wear ourselves out emotionally and physically, and soon symptoms of “Stressmas” appear.
How would you like to use a creative solution to bring back a good measure of peace, gratitude, and happiness to the season? Sounds too good to be true? Here’s a holiday tradition we implemented with our older children. Each year we gave them an envelope with $100 dollars to spend on themselves. Inside was a message of love saying we can’t wait to see what you bought yourselves. They actually bought and wrapped their own gifts! We’ll all be surprised on Christmas morning. And a huge side benefit: No one was disappointed and there were no returns!
Now that our children are grown with families of their own, we have continued this tradition with ourselves. We purchase gifts for ourselves with the $100 spending limit. On Christmas morning we open each other’s gifts, savoring the joy and humor each unwrapping brings. The surprises have included a sock drawer organizer, Magic 8 Ball, new lace curtains for a doll house, and our favorite (most interesting gift) so far – an orange rabbit’s foot to bring Denver Broncos good luck!
Some of our favorite keepsakes from Christmases long ago are the drawings and handmade decorations our children made. This year our daughter-in-law took this a step further and had our grandson and granddaughter draw their Christmas wish list and arrange it together as a garland to decorate their rooms. We share this tip with you as another way to express creativity around the holiday season for more memory making. That’s Ella, our 6-year-old granddaughter pictured above holding her garland wish list.
For Your Classroom
Reversing your thinking can bring unexpected joy and happiness to any occasion. You might use these creative ideas with your own family or share them with the parents of your students.
Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .
Creativity helps, even in the little things.
Out-of-the-box thinking can de-stress the holidays.
Children’s creativity is a precious gift to share and cherish.
Financial smarts and budgeting can be taught along with holiday surprises.
SAMTSIRHC can become a fun new holiday tradition!
“Stressed spelled backwards = Desserts!”
Wishing you a holiday season filled with good food, good friends, and a bunch of good creative moments. We invite you to turn Christmas around and make it a relaxing Samtsirhc holiday this year!
Did you know October is National Cookie Month? It’s one of our favorites, and we’re guessing it might be one of yours. Come to think of it, every month should be National Cookie Month Numerous surveys reveal (not surprisingly) Americans prefer chocolate chip cookies more than three-to-one to other cookies. But did you know the chocolate chip cookie is a result of making a mistake?
That’s right – A yummy mistake!
Way back in 1930 Ruth Wakefield, who was running the Toll House Inn along with her husband, was trying to bake chocolate cookies. While mixing a batch she discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate. So in a risky move, she disregarded all the recipe rules, broke a bar of sweetened chocolate into small pieces, and added them to the cookie dough. She assumed the chocolate would melt. But, to our endless delight, the little pieces did not melt, and chocolate chip cookies were born!
Serendipity is synonymous with the phrase fortunate accidental discoveries, ergo chocolate chip cookies! It often springs from what initially is viewed as a mistake. From Teflon to Velcro, from Cornflakes to Post-It Notes, there are stories about how a set of seemingly random circumstances led to a chance discovery. Check out NASA’s Spinoffs – you will be amazed at the serendipitous scientific discoveries and inventions.
Insert link to Nasa Spinoffs https://spinoff.nasa.gov
Has anyone ever said to you, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” or “Learn from your mistakes?” Although we may have heard these phrases many times, do we really believe them? In “creativity land” those are words of pure encouragement. But, perhaps you too have noticed that mistakes are frowned upon and even punished in some environments. And as teachers, didn’t our job descriptions included “helping students fix mistakes?”
Reacting positively to mistakes is crucial to the development of open and flexible minds – the very mindsets that unleash students’ curiosity and creativity. When students make “mistakes” – let’s turn them into learning experiences by asking students to:
choose an alternative solution or a next step (try).
reflect on the outcome individually and with others.
decide if they are satisfied with the new outcome.
cycle through the process again and again.
These habits of mind build resilience and self-confidence. The alternative, getting stuck in unhappy or unsuccessful modes of thinking, leads to feelings of failure – derails students. In “creativity land” we spell failure as . . . L E A R N I N G!
Trial and Error
Trial and Error is how most of us learn best, especially when we are young. It’s our reactions to the Error part that makes the biggest difference. The world is full of examples where the Error (mistakes) eventually turned into success. It’s the basic thinking behind the Scientific Method! It is the doorway that leads to innovative discoveries and creative designs. It can be as simple as looking at one thing (a mistake) and seeing something different (a possible solution). Who knows where supporting and developing this type of thinking will lead? You may be planting the seeds that lead to the next big scientific discovery!
Remember, as Steve Jobs said, “You don’t have to change the world to make a difference.” But this also reminds us of a lyric from Blake Shelton, “It’d sure be nice if you did.”
For Your Classroom
Make a poster or design a magnet for your classroom that says: