To prepare students for success, schools must encourage kids to evolve and develop their creativity. But how can educators establish an instructional practice that will nurture creativity while meeting curricular goals and making sure students pass their tests?
In this excerpt from his book, Gura explains how to foster creativity by starting where students are.
Fostering Creativity Through Personal Channels
One approach to cultivating creativity is to help students find a creative pursuit that they are already passionate about. One student may find it easy to be creative as a writer, but not as a musician; or as a visual artist but not as a dancer. Choosing a supportive vehicle for creativity that seems a natural and effective fit can help a great deal.
For nearly a decade, I held the position of visual arts teacher at the East Harlem Performing Arts School. This was a school for students who had an interest or affinity for learning through the arts. In addition to visual arts, every student was scheduled to take a music, a dance, and a drama class. Even though it wasn’t specifically designed for them, some highly talented and accomplished students who had an eye on the performing arts as a profession enrolled in the school. Several of them actually went on to become internationally famous stars appearing on the stage or in major films. Interestingly, while these students were rarely a problem, they tended to hang back and participate only marginally in the arts classes that didn’t teach an art type to which they didn’t have a particular affinity, although they may have been masterful at the ones they did relate to.
Creativity should not be considered something that belongs exclusively in the art or music room or in classes where creative writing is taught. All teachers can find places and opportunities to incorporate creativity. If we fail to make this happen, students will likely infer from their school experience that creativity is not part of the mainstream of human intellectual efforts, that it is a phenomenon exclusively associated with tangential areas, like the arts. The disciplines that we teach, and about which we communicate to students a strong sense of importance — math, science, social studies, and the like — all were developed through acts of creativity.
Creativity should be included and celebrated in these subject areas and not be marginalized as something separate from serious, so-called “academic” areas of learning, to be engaged in only occasionally for special reasons.
Mark Gura has been an educator for more than three decades. He works with Touro College, Fordham University and other organizations to promote the use of technology to provide highly motivating, relevant activities for students. Gura is the author of Getting Started with LEGO Robotics and the editor of Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age.