I’ll begin this blog entry with a powerful whakatauki (proverb) that captures the essence of children, and our Term 4 Concept of Pohewa, Imagination:
Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu
Pounamu and tamariki are precious and have potential and possibilities.
An Ako Timatanga student recently showed me what she had created at home the night before – an intricate paper and cello tape creation that she had put a great deal of thought into designing and executing. She had the ability to take simple materials, imagine possibilities, and create something unique. The process was rewarding for her, and her eyes sparkled as she explained her creative process and product in great detail, and with great pride.
I wanted to bottle her energy and enthusiasm!
I also knew that my focus in listening to her made her feel valued and would help to promote her creativity.
Our students are encouraged to share writing and drawings that they have created. I have noticed that children start doing this spontaneously without teacher prompting when they feel valued and confident. Other children then feel that they also have ‘permission’ to be share their creations. Many are practising their oral and written literacy and design skills in the most motivating way – as self-directed learners.
Supporting Children’s Critical and Creative Thinking Skills in the Early Years by Dean and Keri Cheetham is worth a read.
The definition of creative thinking as written by Wright, 2010 and Robinson, 2009 is: a function of intelligence and takes many forms. Creativity is the ability to produce through imaginative skill something new.
Further, C J Simister, (How To Teach Thinking and Learning Skills, 2007) adds that critical thinking (gathering and absorbing the information) leads to the transformation of this knowledge to generate new ideas, which is creative thinking.
The ability to think creatively is closely linked to our cognitive/mental traits: imagination (Pohewa); visualisation; thinking styles, experimentation; logical thinking (Wright, 2010).
Creative thinking is also connected to personality traits: originality; independence; risk taking; energy; curiosity; open mindedness, and perceptiveness.
When we imagine, we form new images and sensations that are not perceived through sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process.
Why is the ability to imagine and create so important to learning?
Author Susan Wright states the link between imagination and creativity to learning well: The act of representing thought and action while drawing actually strengthens children’s later understanding of literacy and numeracy. Children will often use drawing as a way to communicate their ideas and express themselves and their ideas (2007).
This research highlights how early childhood is a critical period for promoting creativity and creative thinking skills. By using a holistic approach teachers need to consider their role, the child’s voice, environment, and the multi-literacy tools (things that support children to express themselves, such as artistic drawings) to ensure children have developed life-long skills that they can apply to any new situation or experience.
Susan Wright (Understanding Creativity in Early Childhood 2010) also adds that, ‘The imagination is energetically deployed and reaches its peak in children’s early years of life, however it gradually declines as children grow older. But imagination is precisely what is needed to keep us intellectually flexible and creative in modern societies.
I have watched a few excellent TED Talks lately. TED is a media organisation which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan ‘ideas worth spreading’:
Tim Brown’s TED Talk ‘Tales of Creativity and Play’ explains that as we get older we care more about what other people think of us, so we are less inclined to take risks and engage with open possibilities through exploratory ‘play’.
Learning is a powerful by-product of play. As phrased by David Kelley, (another awesome TED Talk is his called ‘How To Build Your Creative Confidence’), construction play is “thinking with your hands”. You will find plenty of construction toys in Ako Timatanga, such as blocks and Lego.
We also provide Ako Timatanga students with opportunities to imagine and explore ideas through role play. When children work together in small groups to role play, they are also developing their understanding of social interactions and empathy.
Our teachers carefully plan times for play, and times for structure, and how to transition in and out of play.
We also provide an environment where students feel secure and free to take risks to imagine and create. Our students learn that their ideas are valued, and that there are many possibilities that can be created.
We all know that critical comments, the fear of judgement, and anxiety shut down creativity.
We also know the power of helping our students to develop self – efficacy (the term defined by psychologist Albert Bandura): the inner belief and confidence that one can change the world, and achieve what you set out to do. If children develop strong self – efficacy, then the fear of judgement and anxiety are diminished.
One of our guiding aims is for students to not lose their creative confidence as they move through the school system. People are naturally creative, and we have to let our ideas fly.
We are making our own toys from a variety of materials tomorrow, and we look forward to sharing photographs of their original creations soon!
It’s incredible to think that many design companies go to great efforts to create fun and engaging work environments where their employees can play, imagine, and create…transporting adults back to their experiences as children in classrooms like Ako Timatanga!