Creativity is key in classrooms
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.