The Child Should Have Abundant Opportunity for Creative Expression
THE CHILD SHOULD HAVE
FOR CREATIVE EXPRESSION
During my many years at St. George’s School of Montreal, I have often heard the comment “St. George’s is an excellent school for the artistically inclined”, suggesting an implied bias that creativity is an innate quality of the few. Although I have never disputed that we do offer very strong visual and performing arts programs, our emphasis on creativity is meant to include all students across all disciplines. Creative engagement goes beyond paint brushes or a pair of dancing shoes.
BEING A NATURAL TALENT
FOR SOME, IS ALSO
A DISPOSITION, AN ATTITUDE
AND A WAY OF PROBLEM-
SOLVING FOR ALL.
IT SHOULD BE STRETCHED
BEYOND WHAT COMES
NATURALLY, IN ALL KINDS
OF WAYS AND ACROSS
A BROAD SPECTRUM
OF TALENTS AND
Educating the innate creative mind within each child is a much broader concept and is an important component in fostering the development of the whole child. Creativity, beyond being a natural talent for some, is also a disposition, an attitude and a way of problem-solving for all.
It applies across all domains, from engineering to biology to business, and should be nurtured in every child. Of course, some students are born with a natural inclination towards creativity, just as others possess natural social or athletic dispositions.
NURTURING CREATIVE MINDS
The final of our Six Founding Principles, “The Child Should Have Abundant Opportunity for Creative Expression”, speaks to the aspiration that every child should experience the optimal development of their innate, natural, creative ability, and this should be stretched beyond what comes naturally, in all kinds of ways and across a broad spectrum of talents and cognitive dispositions.
As people develop their creativity, they also stretch their mind and disposition into other aspects of their personality, including: expanding their motivation for learning, fostering connection with a deeper understanding of life’s core principles, and experiencing the joy of freedom of mind.
Developing a creative mind requires agency, courage and humility. As one problem is solved through creative and unique experimentation, other solutions may appear to miss the mark or seem odd (or even unacceptable) to the uninformed eye. Our students need to have the confidence and courage to “think outside the box” and come forward with their own unique presentations.
WE USE CREATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES, MODELS AND METHODS
Creative education flourishes when students are able to use imagination and critical thinking to create new and meaningful expressions of ideas—all while independently taking risks and demonstrating flexibility of thought. Instead of being taught to reiterate or regurgitate what they have learned, students develop an ability to find various and unique solutions to a problem.
A lovely example of the use of imagination and critical thinking was provided by Clare Gabert, our Grade 5 teacher. As a writing prompt, she asked her students to read examples of the different ways other children around the world get to school each day, and then had them describe how they get to school. She received this delightful account from Sofia G., which creatively describes her (and our) new reality!
The question of how I get to school is an interesting one these days.
My kitchen, my living room, my father’s office desk and the screen of my computer have become my school since mid-March. The gates of St. George’s have been replaced by the Zoom link. There is a new routine and route to follow. Well, it all starts with me waking up at around 7:30 am to the sweet sound of the morning train. And if I’m lucky there will be two trains at a time! After the train fest, I go downstairs and get my computer to begin my day with the read-aloud section.
En route to the kitchen I am welcomed by “The Sammster,” my dog Sammy. It always seems as if it is the first time he sees me in ages. I finally make it to the kitchen where my dad is emptying the dishwasher. Then while I’m eating breakfast, that’s when I watch the read-aloud. Afterwards, I go back upstairs to brush my teeth and put on my day time clothes. Then its 9:00 am and time to scan what I have to do for homework. By now I am sitting on the blue couch in the living room. I claimed that room as my classroom. It is spacious and bright. I usually read until it’s 9:50 am or more when I try to get on the Zoom meet.
And that is how I, Sofia G., get to school.
According to UBC Professor, Liane Gabora, “Specifically, creativity involves cognitive processes that transform one’s understanding of, or relationship to, the world.”
We know that creativity can be nurtured. Therefore, at St. George’s:
- We present an engaging environment in which teachers and students are encouraged to share their ideas about the curriculum and beyond
- We encourage student autonomy by giving feedback to encourage self-discovery and independence
- We infuse our assignments with all kinds of opportunities to promote creative thinking
- We invite our students to design new environments with new solutions and imagine what these might look like from other perspectives
- We celebrate the notion of play as it relates to our learning objectives. Take for example this Grade 3 and 4 video invitation from teachers to a 3-day farm trip, during Distance Learning and stay-at-home restrictions. In the words of Albert Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
At St. George’s, because we believe that the opportunity to be creative is found within all disciplines, educators structure their curriculum with the idea that it is for every child to discover and find agency in this world. We believe that “creative” subjects are just as important as the more traditional forms of literacies, even as Ministry regulations provide for less class time for the arts than for the “academic” subjects.
Creativity, then, is another form of literacy, as expressed by Sir Ken Robinson in his Ted Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” Creativity is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.
A SOLID FOUNDATION ON WHICH TO BUILD
Over the last few weeks, I have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to offer further definition on our school’s Six Founding Principles. If you have been following along since week one, you will have noted a consistent and underlying message: St. George’s offers a child-centered approach to students who are nurtured in a creative and collaborative setting, where group work is celebrated and social responsibility is fostered.
While our first Founding Principle, “Health Must Come First”, perhaps rings even truer in today’s COVID-19 world than it did some 90 years ago, each of these core tenets of our school continue to resonate—and will do so for many years to come.
To read all the blogs in this series, please click here.