All Classrooms, Can Be Creative Classrooms

I recently gave a talk about creativity, which is, depending on who you talk to, either the most under, or overused word in education. Regardless of where you stand on Ken Robinson’s TED talk, you probably have thought a little bit about creativity.

What is it, anyway? As someone on the inside of the education world, I have come to prefer simple definitions. Education has some of the most overbaked and overly complicated theories and frameworks, which is funny, because our business is working with kids. Occam’s Razor is not a principle we use in the education world-but we should. (Taking Occam in the colloquial way, about the virtue of simplicity of theories)

“Make something new”, that’s my three word definition of creativity. Make something with words, with paint, with code, with Lego, with a cardboard box, with a basketball, with your body, dancing, or singing. You get the point. There’s nothing mystical about it. Do it manually, or digitally, I don’t care. Just make something.

“Make it new,” was Ezra Pound’s urging to poets (as he worked on his precision Imagist form, economical and tight).

My own children don’t need any urging (well, sometimes they do). Give them a few pieces of Lego, and they’ll come up with something. Every single time. Makerspaces are where we make them. Thinking spaces become makerspaces. All classrooms should be thinking spaces. All classrooms can be makerspaces. You don’t need fancy equipment for that. Did Caine, of Caine’s Arcade need lots of computing power to do what he did? Nope, just a bunch of cardboard.

You call it a “makerspace”, I call it, “my life with Lego underfoot”.

Here are a few suggestions for teachers trying to make creative classrooms.

Provide constraints. We like to think we always are “thinking outside the box”, but to do that, we need to first think inside the box. Face it, there’s always a “box”!

“Found” poetry

In this example, students had to “find” poems by gathering words from the walls of the classroom. It’s hard to put together a coherent thought from found words, but the constraint helps to free us. Imagine instead you are faced with a blank page. Can you just “produce a poem”.

Give constraints- what can you build with 5 Lego pieces? What could this cardboard be turned into? Can you summarize this book in a tweet?

Find new uses for old things.

Old school primary teachers know-you never throw anything away, that’s why they have bags of egg cartons, pipe cleaners, and elastic bands tucked away in corners of their classrooms. What do you have that can be repurposed for the classroom in new and creative ways?

In this digital example, a kid refashioned a bar graph in Minecraft. I had never thought of that before. It was an entirely new use for a tool. Let kids explore materials, and tools, and see what they come up with!

Let kids lead!

Kids decided filming their graphing story from 3 angles was a good idea.

Let them lead, with the power of their creative and unique ideas. You won’t regret it.

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