Cre­ativ­ity is key in class­rooms

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION - Wendy El­liott

Ac­cord­ing to Al­bert Ein­stein, cre­ativ­ity is in­tel­li­gence hav­ing fun.

Nora Young of CBC’s Spark pro­gram has said, “Cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion are hot buzz­words these days, but too of­ten, ‘cre­ativ­ity’ is re­duced to a kind of se­cret sauce that you ei­ther have or you don’t. In re­al­ity, we can learn cre­ative prac­tices that can help us in­no­vate in chal­leng­ing times as in­di­vid­u­als, or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ties.”

Good­ness knows the world can use more cre­ativ­ity to work us out of the mess we’re in. So, it is a fine no­tion to fos­ter more cre­ativ­ity in schools. Yet when l visit class­rooms, I see kids who can’t sit still.

Of course, that is the world we live in. I’ve read that the av­er­age at­ten­tion span of hu­mans is down from 12 sec­onds 18 years ago to eight sec­onds to­day. It is likely we can blame smart­phones and so­cial me­dia for this in­abil­ity to pay at­ten­tion. In a re­cent British re­port some 45 per cent of stu­dents sur­veyed said they were ad­dicted to their phones.

That re­al­ity is what drew me to a re­cent sym­po­sium at Aca­dia Univer­sity en­ti­tled ‘Let’s Talk Cre­ativ­ity.’ It was co-hosted by the At­lantic Cen­tre for Cre­ativ­ity, which is based at the Univer­sity of New Brunswick, and be­gan with Sarah Pound singing and dance by Mar­garet Bo­ersma.

Patrick Howard, of the Univer­sity of Cape Bre­ton, started me think­ing. I learned that cre­ative com­pe­tences build men­tal health and en­large re­la­tion­ships.

The thing is, the school sys­tem feels the need to mea­sure some­thing as elu­sive as cre­ativ­ity and shape stu­dent artis­tic be­hav­iours. Test scores and stan­dard­ized ex­am­i­na­tions go against the cre­ative grain.

Twenty years ago now, Sir Ken Robin­son chaired a na­tional com­mit­tee in Bri­tain that was chal­lenged to look at cre­ativ­ity and cul­ture in ed­u­ca­tion. The re­sult­ing re­port, All Our Fu­tures, ac­knowl­edged the chal­lenges of try­ing to in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize cre­ativ­ity in the school sys­tem.

Dur­ing Robin­son’s more re­cent TED Talk, ‘Do Schools Kill Cre­ativ­ity?’ he tells a marvelous true story about chore­og­ra­pher Gil­lian Lynne. She is famed for her con­tri­bu­tion to Cats and Phan­tom of the Opera.

One day Lynne told him about her un­di­ag­nosed ADHD back when the la­bel didn’t ex­ist. A wise spe­cial­ist saw her in­nate love of move­ment and told her mother, “Mrs. Lynne, Gil­lian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” She did and,

as a re­sult, Lynne’s been re­spon­si­ble for some of the most suc­cess­ful mu­si­cal the­atre pro­duc­tions ever.

At Aca­dia, in­dus­trial de­signer Glen Hougan spoke of the power of the de­sign process to shape ideas and be­gin to frame pro­to­types. Surely that’s a wor­thy skillset to learn when less and less is pre­dictable.

Tessa Men­del, of Hantsport, who di­rects Hal­i­fax’s The­atre for Young Peo­ple, broached the no­tion of the­atre as a col­lab­o­ra­tive tool for so­cial change and prob­lem solv­ing. Work­ing on drama col­lec­tives my­self, I have to agree that play-mak­ing is a pow­er­ful ex­er­cise for those who com­mit to it.

But it was a lone pain­ter, Harold Pearse, who showed with his slides how soli­tary cre­ative en­deav­our is just as strong a fo­cus. Pearce, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at NSCAD, had a slide of him­self stand­ing with a stack of sketch­books in 1988. The stack was up to his waist. To­day, with 101 in his col­lec­tion, it is prob­a­bly as tall as he is.

Pearse said those sketches sus­tain his cre­ative drive. He noted that peo­ple talk about a spark or flame of cre­ativ­ity, but for him sketch­ing keeps his pi­lot light go­ing. Then he demon­strated how his sketches at a dog park turned into large, en­er­getic pointil­list works of art.

I know it’s done when it makes me smile, Pearse in­di­cated, when the colours vi­brate with life. You don’t wait for in­spi­ra­tion. It’s not about the dogs, it’s about record­ing the pas­sage of time.

I was glad to hear the speak­ers I did at the sym­po­sium and I hope such events will help teach­ers bat­tle hy­per­ac­tiv­ity. Hougan’s ap­petite for dis­cov­er­ing new path­ways and Pearse’s pas­sion for cre­ation were cer­tainly in­spir­ing.

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