Creativity 101 What Parents Need to Know

Parents, do you know what creativity is?

Why we need kids to be creative?

And, what home and school environments promote creativity, — not kill it?

First, What Is Creativity?

The capacity to see connections and possibilities where others do not. The ability to disorganize received ways of thinking and to reorganize them in a way unknown before. The process whereby one’s ideas or productions delight, surprise, and inspire others. The ability to move us forward whether we want to move forward or not. The capacity to stretch our minds so they simply cannot ever go back to where they were.”  - Marshall Duke, Candler Professor of Psychology, Emory University

Sociologist Steven Tepper of Vanderbilt University says that creativity is “producing something new (or combining old elements in new ways) to advance a particular field or add to the storehouse of knowledge.

In an article written for the Chronicle for Higher Education, Kepper and Kuh write that creativity is:

“. . . cognitive flexibility, inventiveness, design thinking, and non-routine approaches to messy problems that are essential to adapt to rapidly changing and unpredictable global forces; to create new markets; to take risks and start new enterprises; and to produce compelling forms of media, entertainment, and design.

Would you add anything else?

Kids Need To Be Creative to Be Successful

In her newly published book, Now You See It?, Duke University professor, Cathy Davidson estimates that up to 65 percent kids currently in grade school will one day work in a job that doesn’t yet exist. To prepare kids for these jobs, kids need to be creative, adaptable, problem-solvers, ready for anything. In other words, creative kids will be more successful than kids who aren’t.

But, there’s an enormous, big, huge problem –

Creativity Is Declining in Kids and Schools Are Playing a Part

In the last decade, creativity seems to declining in our children, at least according to the longitudinal Torrance test scores. (See also the 2010 book, NurtureShock.) Sir Ken Robinson believes schools kill creativity - the longer children are “schooled,” the less creative they are, he says.

The creativity discussion commonly blames education, particularly scripted education and rote learningover-testing and teaching to the test, TV, and video games.

So, consider your own children. Do you think your kids are creative? Now think about this – Will they be more creative next year based on their current learning environment at school (even preschool) and their life at home?

Can Kids Learn to Be Creative?

Creativity isn’t something you “teach” in an art class – in fact, everyone is capable of creativity, not just visual artists. Creativity is a way of fluid thinking that one, belongs in the entire learning day at school and two, belongs in all the learning disciplines and three, is for all people.

We already know that children who pretend-play are more creative. But we need to advocate for creativity in their lifelong education, too. And that doesn’t mean more art classes but the kind of learning that promotes creativity – more divergent thinking and learning with a constructivist approach.

A chimera is a wildly creative creature, composed of body parts from different animals, and, in current thinking, isn’t necessarily a monster. (Read Daughter of Smoke and Bone.) To me, the chimera represents creative thinking.

In contrast, the stickman is the result of another kind of learning, the kind that produces rote-thinking and learners who excel at following directions. To me, the stickman represents linear, rigid and constrained thinking, lacking in possibilities.

Tomorrow, my post, “Chimera and Stickman,” will break down the kind of learning environments that result in chimeras and stickmen and explain the differences between convergent and divergent thinking.

Then, I’ll show you examples of divergent and convergent learning activities.

Read more current research on creativity on Keith Sawyer’s blog, Creativity & Innovation.

Do you think you are creative? Take part of the Torrance test here.

A big thank you to the artist who created the chimera, Mattia Cerato!!

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