Creativity

noun 

 ~The ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative

– Cambridge dictionary

Standardise

verb 

~To make things of the same type all have the same basic features

– Cambridge dictionary

It’s pretty clear from looking at these definitions that these 2 concepts are in major conflict with each other, and yet one of them, we know through scientific research about child development, to be the way in which children learn and flourish most naturally. The other is how the school system is set up and simply does not allow our children the space or freedom required to nurture their zone of genius.

Whhhyyyy???

This certainly raises the question, why in the world have we set it up this way? Education should, at its core, be student-centred, what do these particular children need in order to thrive in this environment?

Yet somehow we’ve made it more about collecting and reporting on data, reaching common core curriculum goals and – terrifyingly – obedience (cringe! More on this nightmare later).

Sir Ken Robinson was a British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts and had some inspirational messages to share, he is famous for insisting that “creativity is as important as literacy”.

This is fascinating to me, mainly because it’s so glaringly obvious but also so widely disputed. I’ve worked in education for over a decade in many different fields, and while this notion is intrinsically intertwined in all Early Childhood systems that I’ve witnessed, it tends to be phased out at some point – almost like imagination and creativity just stop being important at some point in our still VERY early development – which is insane, but it’s what’s happening in our schools.

There are of course teachers in all levels of schooling that are actively working to advocate for the importance of creativity – I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of these greats, however I’ve also sadly seen all too much of the standardised trend that is unfortunately the norm, a system failure.

One example stands out to me and I find it difficult to shake …a 7 year old comes home and tells her mum, “I cried in class today mum”..

Mum: “oh, why, what happened?”

“we were using our base 10 blocks to make 3 digit numbers and I made mine into a house with a little cat and the teacher yelled at me and said that’s not what we’re doing”.

She of course placed her blocks back into straight lines… never to make this “mistake” again.

…Some people might read this and think “so what!?” … but it’s the effect that these types of interactions have on our kids. Some kids would continue to “push the boundaries” and let their creativity shine (may they keep this skill forever!). Others, such as in this case, hate the idea of doing the “wrong” thing and will never make a little house with her blocks again. She will also go on to question other unique, out of the box suggestions that pop into her beautiful little mind in that setting – and maybe eventually, out of that setting as well.

It just makes no sense when we understand how children develop, why we’re not nurturing creative pursuits. This little girl wasn’t disrupting the class, she had the correct amount of base 10 blocks to make the number shown and she had fun doing it! What are the chances that kids will retain knowledge and skills if we allow them to learn in their own weird and wonderful ways like this instead of squashing it out of them and demanding conformity?!

Arthur Cropley discusses the interest at policy making level in promoting creativity in schools, in THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CREATIVITY & PROBLEM SOLVING: Creativity And Education: An Australian Perspective.  He also discusses how this interest has not translated into thorough change in practice.

Sir Ken Robinson said that

“imagination is at the source of every form of human achievement and it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves”.

It’s this reason, this greater effect on society, that has seen the topic  of creativity in education jump to the forefront of many discussions and teacher education pursuits. It is widespread knowledge that this is an important factor, however large scale educational reform is not a concept swallowed easily by our already overworked teachers, already trying their best to manage a broken system.

We need to see the widespread change… not just talk about it, not just “know” it’s important… but actually do something about it…

However, this is what’s needed, widespread pedagogical change in recognition of the crucial importance of creativity for our children. This doesn’t mean adding in a creative arts lesson here and there and it certainly isn’t telling children how to “do art”. What I’m talking about is a fundamental shift in understanding that “one size does not fit all” because “Some of the most brilliant, creative people I know did not do well at school. Many of them didn’t really discover what they could do until they’d left school and recovered from their education.” Sir Ken Robinson

Go Create Art offer After School Art Classes where kids get to experiment with materials and methods. These are held in Coledale and Thirroul, in the Illawarra – NSW.

What I have found in my experience in particularly our primary classrooms is that art lessons are often something that most teachers dread because they lack confidence in their own artistic ability and because they are afraid of the mess, the chaos and the amount of resources needed. I’ve also found that these lessons tend to be tokenistic and also way too directed. Children are often told exactly what to create and exactly how to create it, and often they are told to sit still and be quiet while doing so. At times these directed lessons can certainly serve a purpose, they can increase children’s confidence in their own abilities and show them the types of art that they can create, as long as they are also given the freedom throughout their day and even within these guided lessons to freely express themselves.

It is very common practice for children to be told the “right way to colour” as soon as they start school, there’s posters  around the room and regular encouragement from well meaning teachers to colour within the lines, fill all the white space and colour in one direction, and I can’t help but cringe every time I see this or every time my daughter tells me that she got in trouble for colouring wrong or having her paper the wrong way – what If Picasso was told he was doing it wrong (I mean he probably was, but kept doing it his way anyway …. and aren’t we glad he did). These are obvious example of creativity stifling but it needs to go beyond even putting an end to these strange practices, we need to value and encourage the creative expression of all children, allowing them to learn, and show that learning, in all their beautiful weirdness.

Hand in Hand activity Kits provide craft kits that are thematically planned with ALL craft materials, tools and activity guides included for your convenience and delivered at your door!

These are the experimental activities that help our kids flourish, with creative children known to have better fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. In some cases, they’re typically better at expressing themselves and being social, while these endeavours also enhance their self-esteem and decision-making skills – not to mention their ability to apply problem-solving and innovative thinking.

The crucial link between creative thinking and learning…

Lakshini Mendis beautifully discusses the link between creative thinking and learning and points out a significant piece of research in that when we allow children the freedom to think creatively, “instead of relying on established neural pathways, students who practice creative thinking, become comfortable making new, meaningful connections, and thinking of new possibilities”.  Although as Sir Ken Robinson pointed out “The whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance and the consequence is that many highly-talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

We all know someone that can relate to this quote by Ken Robinson – or can personally relate. Those adults who grew up within a system that was failing them. Those that spent more time outside the class than inside, those who were labelled disruptive because they didn’t fit the mould, those whose talents and interests were never celebrated. This is the trend we desperately need to break. TeachThought Staff talk about the benefits of creativity in their article The Significant Benefits Of Creativity In The Classroom and gorgeously articulate the idea that “creativity infuses life with a different sort of depth and richness” and point out how creativity is important across most professions, it plays a role in reducing anxiety and nurtures lifelong learning.

Given the fact that every child needs art to develop to their full potential, we’re lucky to have amazing opportunities such as artventure, online art lessons. Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievements and Artventure provides everything you’ll need to grow your children’s skills and confidence in art.

How can we help at home…

At Triangle Genius we collaborate with local, regional and online businesses that celebrate all children and their natural creativity – what ever form this may take. You can check out all of our featured businesses here.

Within our directory you will find the support you’re looking for to nurture your child’s inner genius, their unique and beautiful weirdness that we want them to hold onto forever.

You can also explore our shop where you will find unique products that will assist your child’s creative and individual learning journey – such as the wonderful Busy Books. These innovative books provide a playful learning experience that has been described as Magic.

Feedback received on these Busy Books has been that they hold children’s attention and keep them engaged for long periods of time as they learn through play. Designed on a learning gradient,  Busy Books challenge little ones from the moment they open their Busy Books and continue to challenge them as they grow, keeping them coming back to them for months, even years.

More than just a book, they are interactive activity books with numerous Velcro pieces to peel off and stick onto 20 fun and educational activities per book, learning topics such as colours, shapes, emotions, patterns, alphabet, numbers and writing skills!

Have your own business that match these goals? Get in touch at hello@trianglegenius.com or submit a listing here

Ashlei

Triangle Genius 

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