This weekend my daughter went to a three-hour class learning how to use Chalk Paint to refinish furniture. She learned so much and came out with a beautiful distressed chair she had created herself to go along with her new (old) desk for her bedroom. The other “students” in the class were three or even four times her age, yet she fit right in and just threw herself and all of her creative energy into this new learning adventure. I stuck around to see Sarah’s work in progress and so enjoyed my time spent there and meeting Michele and Angie Zubrin, sisters and co-owners of a new Winnipeg business, The Painter’s Cafe.
I loved this sign that was posted in the studio there outlining “the creative loop”. This creative process serves as a succession of steps, the rites of passage and an essential part of all that we do when we create something.
In his book Lifelong Kindergarten, MIT‘s Mitch Resnick suggests that as we have shifted from an industrial society to an information or knowledge society that “the pace of change in the world continues to accelerate. People are confronted with the neverending stream of unknown and uncertain and unpredictable situations, and they need to learn how to come up with creative approaches for dealing with those situations”. Mitch Resnick refers to this as the “creative society” we are immersed in today. In a time in which creative thinking has become a necessity, it only seems natural that our understanding and insight into what it means to be creative must come more into focus.
When you hear the word creative you might think of a painter, or a playwright, or an author, or a photographer, or a filmmaker, or a chef. In other words you might think of people who make things. I think it’s what we mean when we use a label like creative type, but there’s no such thing as a creative type. We are all creative every one of us. We just need a bigger definition of creativity. Yes creativity involves making things but it can also mean mashing up ideas in innovative ways. It can mean thinking differently about data and finding unique solutions to practical problems. It can mean hacking systems and tweaking things in unusual ways it can mean exploring ideas and navigating information until you become an expert curator. It can mean designing systems that empower the creative work of others. It can mean creating change in the world by speaking truth and leading movements and interacting with people. You see each of these creative approaches shape our world in profound ways and the more we see the creativity all around us the more we are able to appreciate the creativity inside ourselves.
John’s definition offers greater insight into what creativity can and does look like but, in a world that demands more and more creative thinking and problem-solving; how do we best prepare our students with this necessary creative and innovative mindset in turn helping them grow into the prepared learners, leaders, citizens, and employees of tomorrow? How do we best support our students in developing the skills of risk-taking, resilience and reflection necessary to successfully navigate the “creative loop” above, over and over again in a variety of contexts.
Ultimately as schools, our job must be to create a culture that supports exploration and the development of creative thinking. Mitch Resnick also talks about the barriers that we need to break down in schools in order to ensure forward movement and success in this area;
- Barriers across disciplines– provide more opportunities for integration of math and science and engineering with art and design using an interdisciplinary, more project-focused approach to learning
- Barriers across ages –allow children of all ages to learn with and from one another.
- Barriers across time– provide opportunities for children to work on interest-based projects that take days or weeks or months or even years, rather than trying to constrain projects into a classroom period or a curriculum unit.
- Barriers across space– integrate activities with school with those at home, at community centers and in the greater community.
In recent times we have seen trends in education supporting the breakdown of these barriers. In a number of classrooms and schools, we see shifts from a one size fits all, passive learner model to a more personalized learning approach that is more active and learner focused. We see some educators embracing a STEM or STEAM multidisciplinary pedagogy and maker focused classroom cultures. We see curricular reform focused less on content and more on competencies; less on siloed subject areas and more on big-picture thinking.
Times are changing but we still have a long way to go. However, as educators, we are not alone in this journey. As the fourth bullet above suggests, preparing kids for the future is a joint effort between home, school, and community. I was reminded of that this weekend in meeting Matt Thomas, Technical Director of the Manitoba Soccer Association. This individual who has helped mold and develop many players and coaches in his many years supporting soccer organizations across Canada and internationally is a true testament to the powerful role the greater community can have on supporting students in developing the skill set and positive attitude necessary in today’s world. It takes a village….Supporting kids through the “creative loop” is not only necessary in classrooms but also on the soccer field, on the basketball court, in the studio, in the kitchen, in the workshop, within digital contexts and beyond. When we all work together to help our learners become active and successful participants in our “creative society” we all come out ahead!