#31: Imagine, Believe, Create

The other day, one of my students asked me if he could bring in a ‘coyote skeleton’ to class. I said sure, not quite knowing what I was getting myself into. When I walked into class the next day, there is was…a full-size, real coyote skeleton, mounted high and mighty onto a large wooden frame, its sharp teeth snarling, its legs positioned as if about to jump and its spinal cord so intricately layered. At first thought, I figured it was fake or rented from a museum. To my surprise however, my student told me that he found the bones of this skeleton scattered about in pieces, when he was taking a walk one day with his parents and his sister. Upon finding the bones, the family decided to carefully collect and disinfect them for further investigation. His older sister (whom I had the privilege of teaching a few years ago), being an inquisitive child who loves puzzles and anything that can put her sense of logic and spatial reasoning to work, went about doing research to put all of the bones back together. The mother then carefully mounted the skeleton using precisely crafted and positioned pieces of wood, wire, glue and foam. The result; a new pet that visits our school regularly for presentations and scientific discovery.

The above experience is just one of many examples I have seen of creativity, inquiry and curiosity being put to great use. Kudos to my students’ parents for being so involved in their childrens’ learning and sense of discovery (and I’m sure, their own!).

One of the things I love most as a teacher is joining my students on their imaginative adventures. I love getting a glimpse into their innovative minds as they dive into creative projects with nothing but a world full of possibilities as their criteria. Some outcomes I have been privy to be part of have been marshmallow pyramids, pop-bottle rocket ships, new comic book series’, cardboard box cars (that can actually move!), construction-paper wigs used for grand theatrical productions, stuffed-animal science videos, cotton ball trees, new hip hop dance moves, beetles, branches and bones discovered and preserved from outside, amongst so many others. Their innovation, inquiry, imagination and creativity is always inspiring and is impetus for me, as their teacher, to continue providing such opportunities for them. Since becoming a teacher, I too have become more involved in creative undertakings for myself and I feel that they expand my thinking, open my mind and challenge my perceptions of what a limit is or is not. I also think that in the future, they will help me be a better parent.

Creativity is the root underlying the power to innovate and innovation is necessary to expanding the possibilities for growth and good in this world. Think of how many famous inventors from the past and present (whether they be thought of as scientists, teachers, TV personalities, artists, computer engineers etc…) have been known to have swayed from societies’ standard notions of success and intelligence of getting good grades, completing a multitude of degrees from highly acclaimed academic institutions, and landing a highly-esteemed job (i.e., Doctor, Lawyer, Professor).  I’m not saying these are not important, but there is so much more than falling into a given profession or label that suggests ‘success’, or ‘intelligence’. In many school systems, so many bubbling, creative minds are not given the opportunity to realize their abilities because of rigid conceptions of what schooling ought to be (i.e., test-taking and memorization) and a lack of knowledge as to the importance of fostering and promoting creativity and imagination for students of all different cognitive needs and tendencies. Einstein himself was thought to have been an unsuccessful student and failed to impress his teachers because he did not fit into their definition of intelligence, at the time.

Creativity involves problem-solving, innovative thinking, depth of thought, inquiry, investigation, discovery, theorizing, asking new questions and finding new solutions. Thankfully, due to more research, education and awareness into this subject, many more schools and teachers (at least in Ontario, Canada) are providing more inquiry-based, creative learning opportunities, but there is more that can be done. If we can truly value and promote creativity in this world, I feel that we can realize and explore so many more opportunities for our future generation. Here are a few inspiring  videos on creativity that I highly recommend:

1. Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted talk on schools and creativity

2. Caine’s Arcade

3. Mike Stories: Royan Lee’s Spicy Learning Blog post on his family’s creative and spontaneous bed-time story-telling.

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