Creativity Means Planning Ahead

Sand Castle

A few weeks ago our family packed up the car and headed to Maine to celebrate the 4th of July. The weather, though a bit on the warm side, was perfect for the beach. The kids and I strolled to the beach with my sister, my brother, my uncle, and a bunch of friends. We had about a dozen kids in tow. Soon enough everyone was settled in and the kids set out to build sand structures. As I watched the kids playing, it reminded me how important planning ahead can be to creativity and innovation.

Both of my boys were by the water creating moats. Each child had built a circular defense system to protect against the incoming tide. My oldest son was having a blast. As the tide came in, he yelled over to a bunch of the kids and enlisted their help against the rushing water. One of the kids brought a shovel and started expanding the height of the wall, while another kid laid in front of the sand structure to divert the water away. The shouting, laughing, giggling and barking of orders caught the attention of passersby. People began commenting on how much fun the kids were having.

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The Benefits of Integrating Art into the Classroom

ArtDid you know that today is National Arts Advocacy Day? Well, I didn’t either until I read The Link Between Art and Education. Not to worry, if you are not able to join the live event on Capitol Hill, you can participate virtually.

In some ways, celebrating the arts with a nationally recognized day is a step forward. Yet, the fact that art (particularly in elementary and secondary education) requires a special day reflects a step backward.
While some look at art as one more thing to fit into the school day, art teachers know that learning to apply human creativity and imagination can actually help kids become better students and better problem solvers.

In a study of 25,000 middle and high school students, those with an art education performed better on standardized tests. In fact, the more art classes a student took, the higher their SAT scores. Other benefits of an art education include improved reading and language skills, improved mathematics skills, improved thinking skills, improved social skills, and a greater motivation to learn – all leading to positive school enrollment.

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Can Mandarin Save a Failing Georgia School?

This says something.In a recent segment of the CBS Evening News, reporter, Mark Strassman shared how a failing Macon, Georgia school district is mandating Mandarin language lessons in order to stave off a staggering fifty percent failure to graduate rate. Within three years, all 25,000 students in Bibb County will be learning Mandarin. In fact, third graders at Sonny Carter Elementary School have already begun.

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Exploring New York City with Curious Kids

New York City A trip to New York City is a wonderful way to beat the summer doldrums. After asking my 8-year old and 6-year old where they’d like to spend a few days, we landed on New York (sorry kids, maybe next year we’ll visit Dublin or Rome. LOL!). They had both been to New York a few years back and fell in love with the city. This time though, we were going with 3 others. In our group we had 4 children and 3 adults. The question soon became, “What do you want to do?”

After a ton of research and planning, we ended up with a great mix of fun and educational experiences to fill the kids’ curious minds and to ignite their creativity. Here are some of the highlights.

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Poetry: Music of the Soul

Colouring pencils Français : Crayons de couleu...As part of an end of the year project, my oldest son’s teacher embarked on a poetry lesson. In this intensive, active learning project, the kids learned about the different kinds of poems, wrote a half dozen poems, and celebrated the end of second grade with a poetry reading. By the way, did you know poems include acrostic, ballad, cinquain, and more? Fascinating.

The poetry reading was bittersweet in many ways. It marked the end of my son’s time at the school and served as a yardstick to demonstrate how much he had grown, learned, and developed.

Voltaire once said, “Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”

Each of my son’s poems showed different sides of him – playful, serious, fun, logical, sports-minded, and even profound. In particular, my son’s Color poem moved me. I was surprised by how such a young mind (8-years old) could be so introspective. The way my son was able to dig so deep and explore the figurative and affective aspects of nature caught me by surprise.

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The Benefits of an Arts Education

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Gessica Silverman,  participated in the  Somerville Open Studios. I’ve known Gess for what seems like ages, although in reality it has only been 6 years. I still fondly recall the day she put her wish out there for the world to hear and told me she wanted to “make art.” The bravery it took to say her wish aloud and the work it took to bring it to life was inspiring. It has been many years since we colluded on ways to make art a reality. Now, Gess is doing what she loves best and sharing her talents with the world.

When we learned of Gess’ art show, my husband and I thought it would make a great family event. We packed the kids in the car and headed for Somerville. At the studio, Gess walked us through her pieces and explained how they were made, what they were made from, the concept behind the pieces, the parts of the art making process that gave her energy, and the parts of the process that proved to be challenging. Gess did a great job breaking the conversation down into kid friendly bits. However, while polite, the kids looked like they had some bottled up energy.

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Is Gaming the Future of Education?

Controlador de Video-Games

I started reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken and can’t wait to learn more about how gaming is being used for social good. Though I am only on Chapter 1 (yes, I could use more free time. LOL!), I recognize many of the “gamer” traits in my two boys. At just 8 and 5-years old, both kids enjoy playing video games. In fact, my 5-year old has been waking up extra early every day in order to get time alone with the Wii before his brother wakes up. At first, I was disappointed that my younger son felt pressured to exchange sleep for improving his game play. After all, I’d hate to think the Wii was so competitive and/or addicting that my Kindergartener would go to such great lengths to play. However, after chatting with him about why he woke up early, I was surprised (and happy) to learn my 5-year old’s efforts to get better at the Wii were not necessarily aimed at beating his older brother, but for self-improvement and the joy that comes with unlocking new achievements.

And, in case you think play is easy, it really isn’t. Playing games is hard work. McGonigal describes the video game experience as, “…always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s virtually nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability – or what both game designers and psychologies call ‘flow.'”

BTW, “flow” is another way of describing the state of extreme happiness. To learn more, take a look at the field of positive psychology.

How to Explain Leap Year to a Kid

My youngest brother was born on February 29th. Given 2012 is a Leap Year, my kids are fascinated with the fact their Uncle is “only 9-years old.” Technically, he’s really 36, but who’s counting :-)

The concept of Leap Year is confusing. In explaining why we have Leap Year to my Kindergartener, he quizzically asked, “So…the reason he [meaning his Uncle] is 9-years old, but looks older than most 9-year old’s is that when he was born, he was really 10?”

I love how children fill in the gaps by making up and testing assumptions. Though I wasn’t quite sure about the soundness of the reasoning (LOL!), my Kindergartener was on the right track when thinking about making up time.  I wondered how to simply describe Leap Year. Here’s where I’ve landed.

A calendar year has 365 days

English: Calendar

While, a solar year, or the length of time it takes the Earth to travel around the sun, is 365-1/4 days

NASA exploration of sun earth magnetism

 

Every four years, one extra day is added into the calendar year to catch up to the solar year  (i.e 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1)

A pie-chart showing fourths split into pieces

I’m going to try this description with my Kindergartener tonight. Wish me luck.

 

 

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Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall a...

A recent Huffington Post article identified gap in what schools are teaching students and what employers are looking for in the workforce. Starting in elementary school, the primary focus of the curriculum is to improve basic skills. Policies like No Child Left Behind heighten the issue by promoting the testing and standardization of basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic. However, in reality, employers find it is not the basic skills that are missing, but the applied skills including critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

Many argue America’s educational system was built for a different era – an era where finding the one correct answer was key. Nowadays, the pace of change, the global nature of business, and complex decision making show there is not always one right answer, but a growing need to creatively solve problems. The days of rote thinking are in the past.
Will creating indices that measure creativity help?
To answer this question, we must ask what exactly will be measured. While some educators feel the index should measure the number of classes in drama and art schools offer, it is important to understand creativity goes beyond the arts. States like California and Massachusetts will be the first to define measurement criteria as both have approved bills to develop a Creativity and Innovation Index.
While the key performance indicators of creativity have yet to be defined, the notion of measuring creativity is a positive one. For, as John E. Jones stated, “What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
This article was first published on IIR’s Front End of Innovation as “Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills.”
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How does a Kid Get a Sweet Tooth?

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

My 5-year old was born with a sweet tooth. I remember pushing my little guy in a shopping cart down the baking aisle of our local grocery store. He was just learning how to speak and still had the speech patterns of someone learning the intricacies of language. As we wound our way through the aisle, he started pointing and asking what different things were. This was our dialog…

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