Dr. Thomas Moore has a great song entitled PAPER TOWEL ROLL that encourages children to play with a paper towel roll and use their imaginations. The paper towel roll becomes a many wonderful thing, and hopefully the child gains some amount of imaginative ingenuity in the mental process of singing it.
planning for creativity
It’s important to constantly consider what creativity is, what it means and how to instill it in students. Of course, my answer is simple: provide materials that would otherwise be tossed, compile by theme, add scissors and glue and you are all set.
Of course, for some, there will be the temptation to put creativity on a grid, or a metric, or a way to compare. But just as often we do find that people of influence do understand the value of creativity (see here, and here, and here, and here).
Of course, speaking out against the standardization and testing movement is important, but if you find yourself teaching in the midst of it (as in, it is mandated), then keep that stock of scissors and glue and you will keep the creativity going.
Theme: Party Hats
Ages: K-2nd grade
Games: wear a party hat necklace; sing the song: Put on your party hat necklace, we’re having a party hat time; put on your party hat necklace, let’s make a party hat rhyme; (name a word, they give rhyming words); teams to put together the most mini paper party hats
Project with Scissors and Glue: decorate a flat party hat; decorate a mini party hat (upcycled plastic inserts from cone shaped objects)
There is no question that our society (and any society that is stratified, and not homogeneous) will yield circles (or orbits as we might hear in millennial culture) of communication, expectations, norms, aesthetics and ideals based on resources, expectations, moral codes and the availability of time and energy. And yet, what appeals to us in the creative realm and what dawns on those who channel creative energy is mostly intuitive.
Education, particularly in the day of choice (and probably in the day of “separate but equal,” and likely even in the heyday of public school prominence), will never be able to surmount these orbiting realms of thought. The best any formal approach can do is hope to keep up, by methods of research and response to any new state of the art development.
How do we “stay ahead of creativity” then? How do we lead it? How do we create the trends and not just follow them? How do we plan for creativity and use it for our betterment?
I believe that the goal of noticing the realms, levels or echelons of creativity going on around us is largely based on resources. Just as eating habits generally have developed from what foods are readily available, so too do creative endeavors that seem rewarding because they line up with the aesthetic and philosophical energy going on around us stem from the resources at our fingertips.
So I would ask teachers (just as I ask businesses I approach for donations of reusable and upcycleable materials), what resources are right there with you that you are not using? How could those resources contribute to the creativity you instill in students and that you model in your lessons?
Recently when hired to do a lesson related to the season of Advent with an Episcopal children’s music program, I decided to let them create crowns with paper and foam supplies (not at all hard to come by). Clearly in a Christian church setting, the notion of a crown is for the birthday boy, and the concept of a kingdom tied to the Trinity enfolds.
But crowns can be a theme in almost any learning setting. Most every culture has had a history of monarch rule. History lessons can be figurative in accompaniment of creative learning projects. . .that is to say, you don’t have to tread into the weeds of contention on varying views of historical worth. Consider the games where crowns come in. . .chess, checkers or the history of the crown jewels in London.
Contemplative song-writing in popular media has not escaped the notion of the crown either, so even with a high school English class, you could do some art journaling on the concept of the crown. And don’t forget . .and the notion of who wears the crown in this American culture.
From a simple project for young children, all the way on up to young adult, the concept of the crown opens doors to a myriad of in depth subjects. Tis the season. . . why not explore it in as much depth as you can?
There is a saying that if you want to build community, start bouncing a ball. And it makes sense. . .a bouncing ball is inviting to come and play, which takes people off guard and creates the simple smiles on other’s faces. A bouncing ball, therefore, breaks down barriers and fosters trust.
I believe a roll of paper is the same way. Put a roll of paper in a teacher workroom, and teachers will overflow with ideas about how to use it—it will just happen. And this will foster creativity, which will foster resourcefulness and inclusive learning.
Now, many newspaper printers have recycling contracts on their end rolls. But if you find an entity like Scissors and Glue, who negotiates with companies like the ones who print newspapers, you can get your end rolls on the cheap (if not for free).
Schools, in my experience, are pretty good about allowing a culture of giving thanks and in celebrating a giving spirit between Nov. 20 and Jan. 1. We all know that allegiance to any particular tradition simply cannot fly in any homogenous sense within our rich, diverse citizenry. (Some people lament the notion that there was, at some time, a period when we all could. . .I tend to think such lamentation is based on illusion (delusion?) and merely on the perpetuation of the stories we tell ourselves and our children). Be that as it is or may be, and whether or not pockets of our culture are going to spend energy (spinning their wheels?) on “getting back to a homogenous way of celebrating certain days chosen in accordance with the sun or the moon cycles to honor special days of our ancestors and their connecting with gratitude and spiritual insight,” I think it’s a given that the spirit of giving thanks, expressing hope and holding a hand do float around this time of year in most circles that follow the calendar to which our US Postal service adheres. Enter Scissors and Glue!
The project: create tags to go on gifts or to be used as expressions of joy, thanksgiving, generosity or hope
The materials: save the tags that come on clothing items; collage them, decoupage them, add ribbon and string
Most of us who flip through a magazine or catalogue within a quarter will notice trends in almost every category, from party supplies (mustaches are in! photo props and barn parties), to clothing (boho is the new black), to what you must have in your kitchen (old fashioned milk bottles and ceramic cartons that look like cardboard strawberry pails).
So from whence cometh these trends? Probably, those lucky enough to be at the top of the publishing food chain have a lot to do with it (I’m thinking of The Devil Wears Prada).
I think that it actually doesn’t matter if you create a theme to enable learning, pick up on someone else’s theme, totally emulate another person’s theme or simply notice it through subconscious intuition. What matters is that you examine it for its potential to help children connect to various areas of learning, you utilize it well in a way that helps them create mnenomic pathways and that you help them create memories to accompany their learning experiences that are pleasant.
In the last post I mentioned that celebrating an event or creating a series of lessons is made easier to facilitate, imagine, dream and engage in for the planner or teacher when there is a theme involved. With continuous references to Integrated Thematic Instruction (and its application to teacher training and outreach as well as classroom lesson planning), there is so much creative potential; however, it is important to not forget the substance behind the theme. The theme needs to be connected to the heart of some larger meaning.
For the last teacher event we coordinated, we used a Pine Cone theme. It made for fun fall decorating and festive foodies. But underneath that decor and aura, there was a metaphor for teachers to consider. That metaphor is teacher and schools as conifers.
In my opinion, the approach in education, particularly in the last two decades when there has been a need for precision in evaluating what kind of education process and setting is hitting the mark or the goal, has been too akin to a deciduous tree model. With this model the assumptions are similar to that of a flowering tree: a dormant period (for teachers and schools, this would be summertime), a period of greening, and a period of flowering (for teachers and schools this has been made the equivalent of springtime testing, with test scores as the flowers). Because this model has been manipulated to the point of losing depth in educational approach, I suggest the model of a conifer. With year-round school schedules and wrap-around services, schools really don’t have a dormant period anymore. And we all know, now, that we are not creating a bloom. . we are contributing to the development of individual pockets of potential for future growth (much like a pine cone).
No analogy is perfect, but I’m sure the gist can be easily followed here. And it can be applied to big questions in educational theory, or even examining the placement of learners and those teaching them as they are situated in the context of the world around them and the factors influencing their experience. Consider the conifer!