Creativity in everyday classroom life

Julliene Gatchalian
Learning Through Stories
3 min readJul 24, 2018

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“I like that we got to be creative,” said a 4th Grade student on Li’l Stories immigration bookmaking lab.

It’s a comment that struck me as it implied that the students assume that their usual classroom activities are not creative. It’s interesting that creativity is not seen as inherent in all of the activities that they do in the classroom. What does it mean to be “creative”? What do students perceive as being “creative”? On first look, it seems that being creative is always seen in the context of art class or art-making. “I’m creative. I’m doing art.” But is there no other way for children to be creative?

The Partnership of 21st Century Skills (P21) aims to dispel this assumption by reintroducing creativity as synonymous to innovation, and as a necessary learning skill that all children need to master in order to be successful learners and be future-ready employees. Creativity can be seen in parallel with problem solving: the ability to think of flexible and innovative solutions to problems at hand is essentially being creative. P21 outlines three parameters of creativity: think creatively; work creatively with others; and implement innovations. This perspective on creativity presents the skill in a wider context — as a life skill.

In the context of our most recent Li’l Stories Lab: Immigration Stories, I was surprised by the clear separation of the arts and the idea of “creativity” from the classroom culture. Doing art or making art is seen as something done during special activities or electives. By taking away daily artistic endeavors, we are limiting a crucial exercise for children to expand their critical thinking skills.

The Immigration Stories lab that we designed for the fourth grade class culminated with students making accordion books. They produced collages of the scenes they initially sketched on their collaborative storyboards. Fundamentally, collaging is problem solving. There are many steps to the process of creating one page. There has to be conscious decision making for the kinds of materials that one will use, the order in which it needs to be used, and a knack to troubleshooting when certain materials prove troublesome to manipulate. From the decision between the use of a glue stick, liquid glue or tape, to deciding whether to use fabric, construction paper, or card stock, the students had to negotiate with each other through trial and error in order to produce a book that they were all proud to share.

In the pursuit of academic rigor, we often forego the development of a crucial life skill. Teachers that say, “I’m not that creative” model the same misconception of creativity as an inborn talent related to the arts. However, creativity is a skill that can be taught, and should be taught, as it is an essential in daily life. It is the activation of one’s imagination and original ideas, as a result of experiencing and experimenting with surrounding environment — not limited to any subject domain.

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