When a runner prepares for a marathon, they create a training schedule. Their plan may include a series of runs at increasing lengths, combined with strength training sessions, and interspersed with time to rest. They are building up their stamina so that they are able to complete their goal.
Our students also need to build stamina for learning. They practice reading to build their independent reading stamina. They work to increase math fluency over time to build their automaticity. Just as we want our students to build a deep knowledge in foundational subjects like reading and math, we also want young people to imagine, design, and create in unique ways. We can work to develop creative stamina with our students so that we build up our capacity to create.
In 2018, I began writing Unlock Creativity. During that time, schools were excited about collaboration, they were embracing STEM/STEAM programs, and establishing makerspaces in classrooms and libraries. While I am a huge advocate for all of those things, it was also important to point out that creativity can also be unlocked in small and somewhat simple ways. Small habits that we add to our daily routine can help to build our creative thinking.
Unfortunately, we lost some of our creative momentum in schools as 2020 rolled on through. Not only were most schools going virtual, the ones that were in person were limiting or eliminating some of the best parts of the educational day for our learners. No longer were students gathered together in the makerspace working on Rube Goldberg devices or constructing straw bridges. They weren’t sharing packs of smelly markers to sketch designs or using play dough to build models. For some students, their creativity shifted to digital collaboration, but for many their opportunities for creativity were just squashed. With a goal to provide opportunities for all learners to be creative, we must revisit ways that we can build creative stamina in every classroom.
In the book, I share seven keys to unlock creativity--in our students and ourselves. Those keys are even more applicable now in our current educational landscape, as collaboration is refreshed and creativity reinvigorated. Each key represents an opportunity that can be built upon in any grade level and subject. Here are 3 of those keys that you can use to unlock creativity in your space:
1. Develop creative habits
Over the course of the last 3 years, some people have increased their creativity by investing time in new hobbies, spending more time outdoors, or learning new skills. Some of us have embedded creative habits into our days by starting a podcast, trying art therapy, or writing in a journal.
We can incorporate habits into our classroom spaces, as well. Sketching our weekly vocabulary words, constructing models to show understanding, and writing daily affirmations of creative thinking can become a part of our classroom routines. These habits help develop creative thinking and also help to support health and wellness.
2. Notice the small things
Being more observant and looking for creative possibilities in our environment is something that flourished during the pandemic. With time and opportunity to observe and reflect, we can notice things all around us. Whether outside, at home, or at school, the act of noticing doesn’t require fancy materials or advanced skills. Students (and teachers too) can incorporate noticing exercises as a way to look through a new lens and appreciate the things around us.
3. Make time for playful exploration
How is playful exploration incorporated into your day? Is there time allocated to discover new things, use new and different materials, or try some design challenges? Incorporating creative challenges into our content areas can lead to meaningful opportunities for students. Whether in math, social studies, science, or language arts, we can infuse activities where students tap into their imaginations and work collaboratively with others.
Playful exploration can also happen with digital tools. Using apps for art, storytelling, or music-making are perfect to boost creativity. Exploring artificial intelligence (AI) tools and using technology to enhance creativity can offer a relevant pathway for learners. AI can help with generating ideas, develop divergent thinking and assist in the process of making--everything from art and code to music and books.
Other helpful keys include our efforts to champion creativity for others, lift up the creative work of one another and celebrate creativity in unique and interesting ways. When educators embrace one or more keys to creativity, it can provide powerful opportunities for learners to develop creative thinking and build creative stamina.
Creativity is happening in schools, homes, and communities. Let’s embrace small ways to build up creativity in those around us--our students, our school communities, and ourselves.
About the Author
An educator for the last 27 years, Dr. Jacie Maslyk, has served as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, elementary principal, and assistant superintendent. She is the author of several books including Unlock Creativity: Opening a World of Imagination With Your Students and All In: Taking a Gamble in Education. Jacie is a featured blogger with Defined Learning and Carly & Adam, as well as maintaining her own blog, Creativity in the Making at www.jaciemaslyk.blogspot.com. Jacie has been a featured speaker at FETC and ISTE, as well as a keynote speaker for the Northwest District Educators Conference and the Virginia Children’s Engineering Convention. Connect with Jacie on Twitter @DrJacieMaslyk or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.