Creativity Embedded in the Classroom

A how-to "inspiration path" It begins. Alum sends a note about a recent design conference. Added bonus…this alum, Ameena Batada, also presented at the conference. It is inspiring, reads her note. A first glance through the papers presented, I have to agree—where do I sign up for the tour?

Mumbai, India, February 2010, Designing for Children, international conference hosted by Industrial Design Centre (IDC), at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The paper that catches me first…Creativity Matters: Embedding Creative Practices in Early Years Education.

First read—look at the photographs. Cool. Next day, foil sculptures begin to drip from the ceiling in one of our classrooms. I simply can’t help seeking out some instant gratification. Kids love it. I love it. Movement teacher's graceful arc of her arms sweeps the foil icicles off their strings though, rethink, reconfigure. Second reading, the story unfolds.

We use the arts to express experience and ideas. This paper explores how children’s experiences with each other and learning were enriched after embedding creative specialists in their classrooms.  On the surface, access and ease in creative expression seems the natural result of having an artist present, but the element that brought the most joy was to read about how the children’s language and communication with each other soared. Researchers found evidence of increased social language, self-confidence in sharing ideas, and incorporating input from their peers as they explored ways to solve problems. Small moments/big impact.

Early childhood, to be sure, but any successful think tank, laboratory, office, or work site needs to have a wide-ranging group of skill sets, communication styles, and abilities that can come together to imagine, problem-solve, and get the business at hand done!

The children in the Tracks class have independently gathered to create things. One year it was grass, straw, and sticks for child-sized bird nests. Another year it was small glass marbles, stones, and crystals. This year it is paper and lots of tape to create puppets and now costumes.

One will get an idea, one will envision the paper needed, one will have the scissor skills, yet another will get the tape and provide a second set of hands, while yet another will begin the script for play. Last week, I taught a child to make “tabs” in order to match the exterior curve of a hat top to the interior curve of the hat rim. Today, she taught her friends the same. In the meantime, a child explored how to combine 8.5”x5.’5” sheets of paper into boy-size ghost costume.  The best part of the ghost costume is that it took over thirty-minutes to make, at least fifty small sheets of paper, and the better part of a role of tape, then mere seconds, once donned, to scare his brother with it.

The language of creativity words, hands, paint, brush, and tape opens a door to working with others. We see it every day.