The other day, I came across this article, which claims that “study results show there is a serious lack of creative stimuli in the American education system.”
I’d have to say I agree. Our focus on assessment–on standardized testing in particular–kills rather than fosters creativity.
Every semester in my Freshman Seminar class I give my students some containers of Play-Doh and some “creativity kits,” containers with everyday objects like thumbtacks, paper clips, buttons, toothpicks, pennies, and random tidbits I’ve picked up at the craft store. Their assignment is to create something that represents how they best learn.
We do this assignment after talking about the differences between high school and college learning and how students need to relearn how to think creatively–think outside the box. Children do this SO well. It’s why a toddler will play inside a cardboard box for hours or why kids have imaginary friends who visit for tea.
And then, somewhere along the line, we kill that creativity. And by the time students arrive as freshmen in college, they just want to know how to pass the test. They don’t really want to think outside the box–they just want the right answer.
Inevitably, the majority of my students, when given that Play-Doh, will struggle for the first 20 minutes. They’ll say, “I don’t know what to do!” And they’ll try to quit or take the easy way out: “I made a hand because I’m a hands-on learner,” and I have to push them to try harder.
Once they get past the initial hurdle, they come up with some really clever ideas. And they enjoy the activity (click here for more details and pictures!). They enjoy learning that’s fun. They enjoy flexing their creative brain muscles. And that’s important.