By Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer
Blog 1 of 3 on Cultivating a Culture of Creativity
“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy,
and we should treat it with the same status.” --Sir Ken Robinson
During my senior year of college, I recall experiencing a period of overwhelming anxiety and fear of the future. Although I planned to pursue a career in education from the time I was very young, I suddenly found myself questioning my next steps. As graduation loomed closer, I contemplated whether I should follow my lifelong plan of becoming a teacher and enter a Master’s in Education program after graduation, or take the LSAT and apply to law school. For the first time in my life, I didn’t see my future five steps ahead, and I was scared to make a mistake. This fear led to a knee-jerk reaction to register for the LSAT, which I took two weeks later, and to schedule a flight home to visit family and seek clarity. During my weekend trip, I visited with my grandfather, my “Papa,” hoping to gain valuable insight. My Papa, a deeply thoughtful man, began his career as a high school math teacher, and retired as an accountant with Rockwell International. In response to my questions, my Papa smiled and said, “I can’t tell you what to do, as only you will know the answer. But, I can tell you that when you find the right job, you never have to work another day in your life.” Although never explicitly shared, it was clear that his advice was about following my passions and seeking joy.
Many years later as a proud educator within the Del Mar Union School District, I am continuously collaborating with colleagues to seek ways to meet the District’s mission of “igniting the genius within our students.” It brings me back to my conversation with my Papa in considering, “How can we facilitate learning opportunities that tap into student passions and foster joy?”
In his book, Creative Confidence, David Kelley, the founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school, explains that to better understand what brings a person joy, one can draw or jot down moments in their life when they felt really alive and take into consideration the following questions:
When I consider applying this process into the elementary school experience, I see a wonderful opportunity for ongoing student self-reflection and analysis. Imagine how powerful it would be if students regularly stopped to consider the following questions:
Such questions help students explore moments when they are most happy, consider what motivates them, and how they might recreate those moments in other situations.
During his hugely successful 2006 TED Talk titled, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” Sir Ken Robinson described intelligence as “dynamic.” By this he explains that the interactions of the human brain are “wonderfully interactive.” Providing students with opportunities to experience things across a variety of disciplines and from diverse perspectives, engages them in forming their own ideas. As these ideas take shape, creativity is born and value is added to the lives of each individual and to the greater community.
Last year, my students finished the year with “Genius Hour Projects.” Each project served as a passion project, with students developing their own complex question about a topic of interest to research and present to their classmates. Questions included, “How might we protect the endangered white tiger?” or “How baseball became America’s pastime?” Not only did the students invest in learning about their own topics, but they cared equally about the topics presented by their peers. All students completed an informative paper about their topic and selected how they wanted to share their learning with their peers. In the end, the informative papers represented the best writing samples of the year and every presentation was well rehearsed, engaging, and informative.
I realized that giving students the creative freedom to explore their “inner genius” and the experiences that bring them joy, is a catalyst for deeper engagement and meaningful learning. The outcomes will not only benefit the individual students themselves, but the larger community as a whole.
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