Monday, October 31, 2011

13) 10 Ways to Engage Kids in the Creative Process

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking, reading and talking about creativity. Partially because it seems to be a topic a lot of people are thinking about these days (with good reason) and partially because it is the theme for the conference I went to today. The key note speaker at the conference was Sir Ken Robinson, who is an author and speaker on the subjects of creativity and education, among lots of other stuff. Since the conference was for independent school educators he focused his talk on educators and the structures of the current education systems. However, as a mom a lot of what he was saying applied to home life too. He spoke about how as educators it is important to listen to children, respect what they know, and paying attention to the talents and interests that they have .  He also spoke of the process of  learning as an organic process not a linear event. Near the end of his presentation Ken Robinson told a fabulous story about Bart, a boy who grew up in Oklahoma and discovered at a young age that he was able to walk on his hands almost as well as his feet. Walking on his hands was a fun party trick, however Bart's mother saw this and started taking her son to a gymnasium. He talked about how excited Bart was when he came to the gymnasium and how he had a sense of being in the right place. Ken Robinson then shared that Bart later went on to become a gold metal Olympian who married Nadia Comaneci and now runs the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Oklahoma. While I loved this story, my favorite part was his point, which was this, Bart's mother could never have known that would be the out come for her son. What she did know was that her son had a talent and interest and so she found a way to support that. He then said that one of the most important jobs of an educator, and a parent is to "teach kids to understand the world within them."
            The reason I attended the conference was actually to give a presentation with a dear friend and colleague (seeing Ken Robinson speak was just a perk) entitled:  "Art Cards: The Creative Process in 3x5." The presentation was about a system we used in our art classroom over the last few years using index cards  in place of journal or other method to allow kids to think, plan, experiment, explore and reflect. We presented this method using the creative process as a guide. There are many variations on the creative process but the one that we used was inspirations, ideation, implementation, reflection and presentation. The creative process is a series of steps you go through in any creative activity, i.e. making something, writing, problem solving, or even dancing. The process starts with an inspiration, the thing that makes you want to be creative to begin with. Then comes ideation, the brainstorming or planning step where you start thinking about what you are going to do with that inspiration. Next comes application and implementation, the actual act, if you are talking art this would be the process of making. Finally comes reflection and presentation, thinking and sharing what you have made or done. The creative process to me always feels very scientific and academic, but it really is true, even for a 17 moth year old. Although a toddler doesn't care about word like ideation they do go through the process, seeing something of interest, checking it out  and thinking about what they can do with it, then trying something before running over to his or her parent to share their discovery. In fact I think the creative process is a very natural thing for little kids (perhaps why I love being an art teacher and a mom) my biggest concern for my children and maybe even for myself is how to retain that natural creativity, the innate creativity and curiosity that most kids have. I think one of the answers suggested by Sir Ken Robinson may be to help children find what they like, what they are good at and do it.
So after all my thinking about creativity here are 10 ways to engage kids in the creative process:

1) Listen to the kids, follow their interests and ideas.
2) Let kids find out what they are inspired by and then help them to find more of what inspires them
3) Teach kids that creativity is a process and that means that it isn't always perfect and simple but that you have to try, experiment and mess up along the way.
4) Teach kids that creativity isn't just about art, or making stuff
5) Support your kids interests, even if they are different then your own (or your own ideas about how your kids should be)
6) Provide a way for your child to explore and experiment, for some kids this means writing, others drawing or moving, but a way for them to work out their ideas.
7) expose your kids to lots of creative forms so they have a chance to figure out what interests them most.
8) Give kids time to reflect about and think about what they did or made.
9) Proudly display or share your child's creativity, this will give them confidence and let them know you support their interests.
10) Everyday and every kid is different. Go with were you kids are at that particular moment or stage even if that is different everyday.

What creative things do your children like to do? How do they like to let their creativity shine?

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