Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

I am addicted like a moth to light to those moments of FLOW between people, when insight and connection come together as freely as rain falling.

My children played well when children. They built forts out of blankets and pillows, upturning sofas and chairs, making a mess of the house. It didn’t matter. Their creativity and freedom made me happy and it was easy to make them happy this way. They worked together, linking imaginations through interior tunnels that had few words. This is how they loved each other.

I wonder where freedom goes. As my children grow older, I find myself missing their childhood freedom. No longer can we whimsically float down the wide river of play and imagination. There was school yanking us to shore, to a reality I could not control. School gave my children what I couldn’t, the chance to become socialized. They needed to maneuver on their own. Their ability to be with other children gave them another kind of freedom, the freedom in friendship. But school is a demanding taskmaster and the freedom of play and imagination is not usually welcome.

An ambulance wails in the distance and then stops. The breeze is soft alongside constant noise. Silence is nowhere. Cars and trucks rattle, doors slam, engines ignite, horns quip and a police car passes by. Beneath the pulsating city music are birds. They are everywhere.

You can get use to anything. Our minds are plastic. Only through intention do we create a mind that belongs to our self, otherwise our mind becomes the putty of noise, to be haphazardly shaped by dings and knocks. But when we know we have choice, choice to listen to what we want, to birds instead of sirens, to play and imagine instead of responding only to the rude jerk of school and other taskmasters, then we begin to shape ourselves intentionally, then we begin to pursue the freedom within us.


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“Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She’s teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.” Ted,com

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Important developmental challenges that come when actively engaging in creative social emotional learning are sorely missing in education today.

Challenge is a creative process demanding emotional and social engagement. When challenged we are pushed to know ourselves, what we think, feel and care about. We find passion and motivation. Without authentic social and emotional challenge, we become waders, watchers, sideline participants, never plunging into deeper waters.

Yesterday, a college graduate, age 22, said, “They asked me (at a job interview) what I liked to do in my spare time and I had no idea. I have no idea what I like to do. I’ve been doing homework all my life.”

Education has become dopily dependent on drill and skill left brain fact memorization/regurgitation that does little to socially and emotionally engage, inspire or challenge forming minds and identities – but does an excellent job taking up valuable, irreplaceable time. Students are led to believe they are doing something, going somewhere but when they get there – the high school diploma, the college diploma – they don’t know themselves or what they want.

It’s not just schools that are responsible for perpetuating this social and personal emptiness, it is experience itself, in and out of school, life is watered down.

Do we believe our children are suffering a crisis in creativity? Our children are not the problem. The dull state of children’s imaginations is the consequence of the dull state of education. School is linear, flat, packaged. Kids are bored and unchallenged. Their disconnection is telling us something is wrong. Creativity is banging at the door to be let in but we keep the door locked shut.

Maybe comfort is the problem. Maybe rote learning. Maybe our lives have become so standardized that true challenge, imaginative challenge, relational challenge, sweat and tears challenge is impossible to be had.

I think we hunger for real experiences, not just the larger than life depictions portrayed on film, TV and video games we are glued to. These can’t substitute for real life, but they do allow us to study and absorb challenge vicariously from a safe distance. Why was the TV show “LOST” such a phenomena? Was it because, from the safety of our private islands (homes), we transferred our hunger for real challenge onto characters lost on a fictionalized island?

Maybe this is why reality shows are popular. We are relegated to watching life rather than living life, timid from lack of practice and opportunity. We covet and yearn but in the end, don’t know how to truly engage. Life is not set up for real engagement. Escapism is addictive.

Boredom, disconnection, insecurity, generalized apathy and deep unsatisfied want challenge us but these are different kinds of challenges. These are not challenges that define or shape us in concrete ways. Instead they weigh us down by their burden of hollowness because we cannot concretize them into authentic action.

I care about all this because I have four children, three are out of high school now, one out of college. For 23 years I have thought a lot about issues of creativity and challenge, identity and freedom.

I didn’t want to send my children to school. I knew and remembered what it felt like to be closed in physically, emotionally and intellectually. And this was long before across-the-board standardized testing stole the soul out of education, when school was far more open and relational and less rigid and lonely – as it is today.

I kept my children home and homeschooled my oldest son through 5th grade. I don’t idealize this experience/experiment but on the whole it was a profound learning time. There was a liberating openness to the moment and a wonderful creative messiness in figuring it (learning) out. What I learned was children are insatiably creative and hungry to learn. They love being challenged.

I learned the more I tried to control and order their learning, the more resistance there was. They needed structure but too much control led to increased resistance, which meant a marked decrease in motivation. The more I relaxed and trusted their learning, the more energized and curious they became.

A woman working at the Apple Store said she loved her job because, she says, she is using her middle brain – the brain that uses equal parts of her right brain (creative, intuitive, problem solving) and her left brain (logical, linguistic, mathematical). She feels intuitively, creatively and intellectually challenged. As a result she is always curious – which defines the open, learning, creative mind.

Schools must challenge the middle brain.

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Newsweek Back in 1958, Ted Schwarzrock was an 8-year-old third grader when he became one of the “Torrance kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance. Schwarzrock still vividly remembers the moment when a psychologist handed him a fire truck and asked, “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?” He recalls the psychologist being excited by his answers. In fact, the psychologist’s session notes indicate Schwarzrock rattled off 25 improvements, such as adding a removable ladder and springs to the wheels. That wasn’t the only time he impressed the scholars, who judged Schwarzrock to have “unusual visual perspective” and “an ability to synthesize diverse elements into meaningful products.”

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.


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Education needs to be transformed into something else. Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Cloths of Heaven
by W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

“Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet and we should spread softly.” Sir Ken Robinson

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Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we don’t know. …Hence, to think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.

George Kneller – The Art and Science of Creativity, 1965

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, ourselves to ourselves: this has its own good reason. We have never searched for ourselves – how should it then come to pass, that we should ever find ourselves?

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1887

There is no convincing evidence that courses in problem solving can increase one’s ability to make imaginative leaps that are often crucial in problem solving.

Morton Hunt, The Universe Within, 1982

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