Lancer Letter – Creativity Through the Years

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

Can creativity be taught? Are you a person that says, “I’m just not creative?”

Because creativity is a valued quality in astronauts, NASA asked general systems scientist, George Land, to develop an assessment of creativity. Having met with great success in its application at NASA, Land decided to administer the quick creativity test to 1600 children ages three-to-five. He again tested them at ages 10 and 15. Here are the percentages of children that demonstrated high creativity:
Age 5 98%
Age 10 30%
Age 15 12%

Land then assessed the creativity of 280,000 adults and only 2% demonstrated creativity! What happens?

Creativity is buried by rules and regulations and our model of education, which was born in the Industrial Revolution, can thwart creativity. In 1956, Louis Mobley worked for IBM and realized that creativity was important for executives. So, he began to teach creativity based on six insights:

1. Traditional teaching methodologies like reading, lecturing, testing and memorization are useless for encouraging creativity.
2. Teaching adults to be creative was a system of “unlearning” rather than a learning process.
3. We don’t learn to become creative. We must become creative people.
4. The fastest way to become creative is to hang around creative people.
5. Creativity is highly correlated with self-knowledge.
6. You must give permission to be wrong to foster creativity.

During the week of March 27, I had occasion to see creativity being encouraged or displayed at all three levels of our school system. At McKean Elementary, Emily Robertson gave her second grade art students an opportunity to create “bridges” out of empty paper towel tubes, strips of paper and masking tape. Blue construction paper served as representation of water and a large piece of white paper was the land surrounding it.

To inspire students to be creative, Mrs. Robertson showed a number of pictures of creatively designed bridges and gave very few “rules” for the project. Working in teams of four, the students created, almost magically, all different types of structures. The lesson not only required creativity, but also teamwork, problem solving and collaboration. It was amazing to see how these young minds went about this task.

The Creative Arts Expo was held at the Middle School on March 29. This was the second year for this event. Students in Mrs. Martin’s art class displayed their work in the main lobby. A variety of media was on display including paintings, pencil drawings and ceramics to name a few. The work displayed demonstrated the wide expanse of the curriculum.

In the hallways there was a wide variety of student work and performances. The after school sewing club led by Mrs Glasl, displayed blankets they have been making for the senior living center and the rice-filled bags to warm in the microwave for sore muscles. Students gave on demand performances featuring monologues from movies or literature, explanations of books read and the recitation of poetry. For these students, it was a chance to shine.

In one cafeteria, students presented the dozens of cookies they had baked. Participants got to try one of each and place their votes for the best which was a difficult task given how delicious they all were. The triple brownie took the prize! In the other cafeteria, Mr. Triola had on display his sixth graders’ creations of amusement park rides created with Kinex. It was an amazing display of the students’ best thinking on how to create a thrilling experience in an amusement park.

The week concluded with the 36th annual Broadway Dinner. As always, it was an amazing event, showcasing the creative expression of nearly 125 students. I love bringing people to this event for the first time. Expecting to endure a typical “high school performance,” their jaws drop and they can’t stop talking about the professionalism of our students and the performance. The most common remark is, “How can one school have so many talented students?” I think the answer to that question is that most high schools have as many talented students. What they don’t have is a Bruce and Trisha Yates who can tap into what has been cultivated in these students throughout the years. It takes a community and school system that is dedicated to the arts and a very hard-working and dedicated staff in grades K-12. I’m pleased we have such a community and I am grateful for all our teachers who encourage creative endeavors in their classrooms.

(Some content for this letter came from the blog, Creativity at Work, by Linda Naiman.)

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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