Some might argue that creativity in the classroom is a lost art. In many classrooms, this truth is playing out on a daily basis. High stakes testing and meeting local/state/provincial/national standards has put a damper on creativity in our schools and that is not a good thing. The challenges our world faces, both now and in the future, demand a new way of thinking and a healthy dose of creativity to reach solutions that are beneficial to all. This sentiment was echoed by Sir Ken Robinson in a TED Talk he gave in 2006 where he stressed how creativity is needed to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow, not to mention being able to function in a workforce that is being transformed every day by the rise of the “gig economy.”
So, what is it about creativity that makes it one of THE buzz words in education, not to mention the business world? For starters, creativity inspires exploration, problem solving, and interaction. It challenges students to step outside their comfort zones, to learn new things, and come up with innovative solutions. It encourages students to exercise their imaginations, explore their passions, and apply what they learn in school to real life. And it helps students strengthen their team building, communication, and social/emotional skills, all necessary ingredients for participating in the 21st century workforce.Infusing creativity in the classroom goes beyond organizing art projects and acting out skits (though these are great ways to get those creative juices flowing). Here are some less obvious ways to stimulate creativity in your students.
Genius hours take a cue from the “20% rule” practiced by businesses like Google. Applied in the classroom, a “genius hour” allots a defined amount of time for students to research and work on passion projects that are unrelated to what is currently being taught in class. This provides students an opportunity to explore an interest or issue of their choosing and develop a product or piece of student work that can be shared with the class, their peers, or an audience within or outside the school community.
Classroom Discussion and Debate
Classroom discussion and debate may not be at the top of your list for creative strategies; however, both strategies open doors for students to think more critically, learn how to articulate opinions, hear multiple perspectives, and brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas. Aside from encouraging students to develop an innovative mindset, these exercises can also help draw students closer together and cultivate a positive classroom environment. Socratic seminars and open-ended questions are two popular ways to spark discussions in the classroom.
The maker movement is taking off in K-12 schools and breathing new life into hands-on education. A perfect example of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Science) in action, makerspaces provide students with a variety of materials, from basic art supplies to 3D printers, to create prototypes of solutions that address real-world problems. These spaces can be as simple or elaborate as your space and budget allow.
One school that is excelling at integrating maker education into its curriculum is Albemarle County, Virginia’s Monticello High School. Its library has been transformed into a co-working space that includes both a “writer’s cafe” and open work space, and a former woodshop is now an engineering lab. These changes are not only inspiring creativity, but making it inclusive for all students, “especially those who have struggled to find a comfortable place inside school,” relates Monticello principal Jesse Turner.
Whatever creativity looks like in your classroom or school, a common thread is flexibility, in both curriculum and space. Flexible classrooms lend themselves well to creative pursuits as they allow students to move about and transform their learning space to accommodate their needs.
Here are some examples of our recent creative classrooms to further inspire your work: