In our travels, we've asked educators all over the world about the most important skills kids need to thrive beyond school. It's pleasing to see that nurturing student creativity is very high on that list. In fact, it's number 2, directly below problem-solving. How do we ensure we're letting students exercise these abilities in ways that will serve them and the world?
Robyn Ewing AM and John Nicholas Saunders have this to say about creativity's essential place in modern learning:
"As any passionate teacher will tell you, it is possible for education to nurture key skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, imagination, communication, agility, and empathy. And, as many studies will tell you – or perhaps even your own experience as a student or parent – the common path to nurturing these skills is to foster fun, play, and creativity in the classroom."
Creativity is a lot like a compound muscle movement in that exercising it benefits many different areas at once. We'd add things like abstract reasoning, design thinking, and cultural awareness to this list.
Nurturing Student Creativity, Not Technicality
In our quest to bring creativity into our classrooms, we must fully understand what it really means. If you sat down and drew a model using a charcoal pencil every day for a year, you'd certainly improve at drawing. Just like strength training, your muscles get stronger and more in tune with activity over time. However, this has nothing to do with being creative. It’s simply a repetition of motion leading to technical proficiency.
Creativity actually enhances the value of the function through the form.
Rest assured, you are indeed creative—we all are. When it comes to nurturing student creativity, it's a process and it can be taught and learned. It’s a whole-brain exercise in which both hemispheres are working together. Understanding this is the reason we developed Creativity Fluency.
The Workplace is Changing
You've seen that students can learn to develop their creative abilities, and Creativity Fluency is the path. This is critical because our global workplace is changing due to advances in technology. The shift in valuing creativity and its ability to increase revenue by enhancing product value echoes in every market segment. Here are just a few examples:
Paul Thompson, director of New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum:
“Manufacturers have begun to recognize that we can’t compete with the pricing structure and labor costs of the Far East. So how can we compete? It has to be with design.”
Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management:
"Business people don't need to understand designers better. They need to be designers."
Robert Lutz of the GM Corporation:
"I see us in the art business. Art entertainment and mobile sculpture, that coincidently happens to provide transportation.”
Norio Ohga, former Sony Chairman and inventor of the CD:
“At Sony, we assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance, and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace.”
In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink also discusses the success of nations depending on "having artists in the room." Such insights lead to the realization that having creative people on any team is essential. It's paramount to the success of any corporation wanting to innovate and inspire with its products. Ultimately any job focusing on routine work and repetitive mental tasks can, and probably will be, outsourced in the future.
The App Economy
One example that reinforces the priority of nurturing student creativity in education is the rise of the app economy. Since apps became a household thing, millions of global jobs have been created.
A decade ago, nobody would have considered a career as an app developer.
That market didn’t exist until 2008 when Apple introduced its app store. Since then, billions of apps have been downloaded and billions have been paid to their developers.
Creating apps and games doesn't just take strong programming and problem-solving skills. It also calls for an understanding of art, architecture, anatomy, composition, perspective, color, light, and shadow. This is only one example of a creative class occupation that didn’t exist a few years ago.
Beyond the Screen
The need for creativity as an unconscious ability goes way beyond apps. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative answers.
Our students are inheriting such issues as:
- global warming
- the need for health care
- water shortages
- electronic waste management
- energy crises
Students must be able to think divergently and creatively in digital and non-digital environments to create useful solutions to these challenges. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, reminds us in this article that being creative also requires "growing up." In essence, he stresses that creativity requires responsibility:
"It’s time for the creative class to grow up and stop thinking all you need to do to build a better community is make your neighborhood 'so cool.' We need a more inclusive society, a more diverse society, a better world for everyone. We can’t do that just by following our passions and finding meaning in our work."
7 Ways of Nurturing Student Creativity
- Keep their interest: Examples like this one from educator Charlotte Brown emphasize the importance of using students' interests to immerse them in the learning journey.
- Give them space: Design a learning environment and a schedule that encourages play, discovery, and useful failure.
- Involve others: Find ways to involve parents and the wider community in the students' creative pursuits.
- Keep it real: Connect problems and their solutions to real-world situations using PBL and inquiry learning tools like the Solution Fluency Activity Planner.
- Never stop dreaming: Let students dream about solutions without borders and accomplishment without limitation. When designing a solution for a problem, lead them towards imagining what they want as opposed to just what they think is possible.
- Use class strategy: Incorporate classroom practices like this list from Miriam Clifford.
- Take risks: Stretch your students to take creative risks and do what they're unsure of.