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Creativity is Essential to Learning

November 2014

Related Reading for Children * Related Information for Teachers and Parents

Today it is hard to find creativity in the classroom unless the subject is fine arts. Why is it that people assume that creativity exists only in art or music, dance or poetry? In our test-driven society, we have forgotten that creativity is a key ingredient in the path to understanding. When we participate in the creative process, we question, wonder, and reflect. We make connections. We participate in “critical thinking” at its deepest place. It does not matter what profession you choose – a creative approach will help you not only succeed but also discover depths and meaning and nuances that you didn’t know were there. In fact, creativity is the path to discovery.

True learning is experiential. Some would say that all learning is experiential. It may appear that a child is sitting still while reading a book, but if the child is engaged then s/he is having an experience. While I know I am in my living room, at the same time I might be lost in the jungles of equatorial Africa, or visiting a castle in the Middle Ages, or traveling through outer space. The mind is highly activated, fully engaged, imagining and wondering and recalling associations and making connections.

Creativity is not about making an artistic achievement, a work of art or performance. It is a process that might lead to an artistic creation, or it might lead to historical research, medical discoveries, or new methods of teaching. Creativity is a skill that can be developed.

You know you are experiencing creativity when one thought sparks another, ideas flow, and time flies. It can happen when you are alone being quiet, or it can happen in a rapid-fire conversation. It can happen when you are in a crowded elevator, or at the zoo. I have had inspired moments while I was giving my kids a bath, riding the subway, and cooking dinner. How often I have been in the creative process and not heard the doorbell ring or noticed the person standing in my doorway, I was so immersed in the process. Sometimes when I am done I think that hours must have passed, yet only ten minutes have gone by, or perhaps I think that it has been mere moments, yet hours have elapsed and everyone else has gone to sleep. The creative process knows no time, and the rewards are great. It can result in a momentary lapse of sadness or loneliness, a lifting of the spirit, a feeling of bliss. It can give you a sense of inner satisfaction, and also a relief from the burdens and dullness of daily routine. When the process overtakes, it is as if it is doing you, instead of you doing it. The music is playing you, the words are whispering to you, the ideas are flowing through you. You are in the bottomless resource of creativity.

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."
— Albert Einstein

See also Ten Reasons Why Self-directed, Child-led Learning Works (article by Laurie Block Spigal)

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Related Reading for Children

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Related Information for Teachers and Parents: