Archive for the 'Teaching for Creativity' Category



Teaching for Creativity: Inspiration from a Still Life

Recently, my colleague Amanda Batson and I spent some time in the DMA galleries and in the studio with a group of high school visual art students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.  This group visits the DMA often as part of a class that Charlotte Chambliss, BTW faculty, and I co-teach every other day during fourth period.  Often, I have heard this group of students remark on still life exercises and observational drawing in less than enthusiastic ways.  So, Amanda and I planned their museum visit with the following goals in mind:

  • Stir up an engaging conversation around a 17th-century Dutch still life painting, encouraging students to go beyond a descriptive and literal interpretation
  • Sketch an original still life inspired by metaphor and personification

The visit began with a trip into the galleries.  For about fifteen minutes (which could have gone longer), we viewed and discussed Still Life with Landscape using a conversational approach created by educator Dr. Terry Barrett.  First, we considered the following: “I see _____________.”  We went around the group once with each of the twenty participants stating something they saw, while being sure not to repeat something previously mentioned.  The majority of responses were purely descriptive and inventorial.  Because this painting is so rich with things to see, we went around the group again without any difficulty in seeing something new together.

Abraham Hendricksz van Beyeren, Still Life with Landscape, c. 1620-1690, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.3

Second, we considered: “I see ______________ and it makes me think _______________.”  Each student in turn responded to these prompts, and this is where a conversation about the artwork began to unfold.  Our experience began to get a little more lively.  Students responded with observations that focused on the relationship between objects on the table and in the room.  Several crafted imaginative stories about a raucous party occurring in this scene and evidence of a quick departure among revelers. Ideas contentious to the storytelling threads emerged as well – something along these lines, “maybe this painter was really just painting a still life to show us how good he could paint this stuff.”  The looking and talking portion of the visit served as a great warm-up connection to an artwork, after which we traveled to the studio for a sketching exercise.

Two random objects were placed at each table seat, so that each student had his or her own still life. The pairs included items such as a glass jar and a washer, a piece of wood and a clothespin, a shell and a sponge, and so on.  We invited students to take a seat and add one item from their person to the compilation of objects.  They added cell phones, a wallet, glasses (not needed for seeing), hair barrettes, and a variety of pocket treasures.  For a short bit, we reflected upon and summarized together our experience looking at the Dutch still life painting.

Next step was to sketch the three objects in front of them using pencil, colored pencil, or pen. Additionally, Amanda passed to each student a prompt that added a twist to their composition.  This portion of the activity was borrowed from a previous C3 Artistic Encounter program with Magdalena Grohman and Thomas Feulmer. Prompts invited students to arrange and think about the objects in human-like ways:

  • These three objects are siblings.
  • Two of these objects are conspiring against the other.
  • Two of these objects are in a new relationship and one of them is introducing the other to the third object for the first time.

After 20-25 minutes of sketching, we concluded with an opportunity for each student to share his or her sketch and thoughts about the how they applied the metaphorical prompts to the  still life objects.  The elaboration of compositions and their associated stories ranged far and wide, and often resulted in humor.

What ways have you made still-life assignments and observational drawing come to life?  Share your ideas with us and readers!

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

High School Day: Students Connect with Filmmakers and Art

Students arrive at the Dallas Museum of Art for High School Day

Last Friday, we had nearly 400 students visit the Dallas Museum of Art  for High School Day, a free educational event that was held in the Dallas Arts District.  This event was presented by the Dallas International Film Festival, and the students attended discussions and workshops at the DMA, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Asian Collection, and the Annette Strauss Square at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. 

High School Day was a day chock-full of workshops and discussion panels from 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., during which the students had the opportunity to work with local and regional filmmakers and professionals. 

Digital Cinematography with Paul "Bear" Brown

One of the three sessions held at the Museum was Digital Cinematography, which was held in our outdoor sculpture garden.  This workshop was led by Paul “Bear” Brown, a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Students in this session learned what type of digital cameras are commonly used in filmmaking,  such as the Canon 5D MKII. Other topics included popular production tools such as Sliders.

Students experiencing "Cinematic Response" in the galleries at the Dallas Museum of Art.

While half of the students interacted with Mr. Brown, the other half were making connections between art and film in the Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties exhibition.  Cinematic Response, a DMA staff-led experience, allowed the students to be the film “critic” of works of art that are featured in the exhibition.  Each student was given an award title, such as “Best Cinematography,” and they selected the work of art that best fit this description.  This was a great way to get the students discussing the art of the Roaring Twenties in the context of film.

Another workshop featured at the DMA was The Nuts and Bolts of Screenwriting with Carolyn Hodge, the president of the Dallas Screenwriters Association.  Ms. Hodge broke down the fundamental basics of a script and gave some pointers for the students.  Then she discussed loglines, and had the students create their own logline based on the movie The Hunger Games.  A logline is basically a summary of the film in one or two sentences. This is what one group came up with:

“A young, impoverished girl who struggles to survive a totalitarian government is forced to fight to the death in a competitive feudal match. ”

The Nuts and Bolts of Screenwriting with Carolyn Hodge.

Lighting as Storyteller session with Michael Hofstein

The third and final workshop held at the DMA was Lighting as a Storyteller with SCAD professor Michael Hofstein.  Students learned to match specific lighting techniques with the story being told.  Holfstein used examples of cinematic lighting rendered in paintings and popular films, and then discussed the importance of lighting within a specific story.

Overall, High School Day was fun and educational for all.  The event provided many opportunities for local students to connect with professionals in the filmmaking world.  I can’t wait to see what the future of filmmaking holds!

Cheers,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Teaching for Creativity: One Continuous Line of Creativity

One goal for the Teaching for Creativity series is to present the voice of other educators who can share insights and approaches to teaching that nurture creative behavior.  Meet Lorraine Gachelin, Artistic Director at the Dallas International School and participant during the DMA’s 2011 Summer Seminar.  Lorraine shares with us a drawing exercise that supports the development of risk-taking, freedom, and creative flow in her middle and high school students.

I have the pleasure of working with Middle and High School students.  They display a great deal of energy and enthusiasm when working on creative projects and studying art history.  Curious, analytical, and structured, they follow instructions and stay within their guidelines.  The challenge arises when I ask them to spend time sketching in their journals.  “What should I draw? How large or small?  Which tool must I use?”  “A free drawing”, I respond, “What is on your mind today?  What would you like to express?”

My biggest thrill as an artist and teacher is to offer my students the opportunity to be risk-takers in their art.  I want them to open up their minds, take a pen to paper, and doodle with a cause.  Go with the subconscious flow!  Let the pen move around with one continuous line until an image appears.  No planning, no analysis, no critical thinking.  Just pure creative freedom and finally, allow an image to spring forth.

One continuous line drawing by teacher

Sounds strange?  Not really, it just requires an open mind and a little practice.  A ballpoint pen is a great tool because it can’t be erased and the pressure can be varied.  The paper can be any size – try to use the maximum space available.  Constraints are minimal but important:  no reference photos and the pen may not leave the paper as this drawing will be created with one continuous line.  The first few minutes of drawing should be very free.  Consider it a warm-up.  I don’t even look at my paper during this time.  Once the pen touches the paper, allow the line to move around as if it is listening to music.  After a minute, my eyes are on my paper and I watch the line continue to flow and build.  Shapes may begin to appear where the lines cross with textures implied.  Patterns and values slowly emerge forming an image in a very organic and natural state.

One continuous line drawing by student

A talented sixth-grade student was intrigued by this approach to drawing.  Without question, judgment or any preset expectations of what would result, he quietly sat at his desk and drew for 15 minutes.  A flower and butterfly appeared with much energy and grace, all too well symbolizing the metamorphosis that had just taken place in his artwork.  It’s all in the continuum of the flow.

Many thanks to Lorraine for contributing to this blog and for being such a wonderful collaborator in the pursuit of creativity!

What creative experiences are happening in your learning environment?  Share your ideas with us and spark the dialogue.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

2012 Summer Seminar for Teachers

2011 Summer Seminar Participants

Imagine yourself among a group of educators — spirited, inspiring, trusting, supportive, and innovative — all focused on creativity and the nurturing of students. Now imagine this group immersed in the creative environment and resources of the Dallas Museum of Art for one full week.  This is the Summer Seminar experience for teachers at the DMA, and we’ll be hosting the 2012 Seminar June 11-15.  We invite you to join us!

Teaching for Creativity reached beyond my expectations by exploring how to consider attitudes, ideas, and associations I may have discarded or not considered before this class.  – 2011 participant

Designed for teachers of all grade levels and subjects, Summer Seminar: Teaching for Creativity explores education and creativity through experiences in the DMA’s galleries and Center for Creative Connections. The course references creativity from a variety of perspectives, and participants engage in readings about creativity from various authors, including Robert Sternberg, Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Through conversations and workshops centered on creative attitudes and thinking, the Seminar supports teaching skills and approaches that foster imagination, curiosity, an open mind, and a natural drive for creating in students. UT Dallas professor Magdalena Grohman and DMA staff lead workshops and gallery experiences.  Participants reflect on and further develop their own creativity, as well as focus on how to teach for creativity.

I will use the tools in order to push myself further with my projects, rather than staying in [a] comfort zone.  – 2011 participant

This definitely helped me tap into more creative thinking. The exercises and activities were very helpful.  – 2011 participant

2011 Summer Seminar gallery experience

Throughout the Seminar, the DMA galleries serve as a kind of laboratory space, in which we consider the creative process and relate creative thinking techniques to specific works of art. In-depth experiences with art cultivate our abilities to observe, envision, express, explore, engage, and understand  in the arts and other disciplines. Through these experiences, we may become more persistent, flexible thinkers, better problem explorers and problem solvers—overall, more creative beings.

Unlike most professional development, the focus is not on ‘making a better teacher’ but on providing good teachers with better tools to bring out the best in their students.      – 2011 participant

The one-week Summer Seminar experience serves as a catalyst for an extended relationship between participating educators and the DMA as we continue the dialogue about education and creativity throughout the academic year.  This blog is one venue for the continued dialogue — view posts from a series titled Teaching for Creativity to learn more and hear about the creative journeys of several educators in the classroom.  The blog post this Thursday will feature 2011 Summer Seminar participant, Lorraine Gachelin.

Registration for the 2012 Summer Seminar: Teaching for Creativity is currently open. For more information, please contact Andrea Severin at aseverin@DallasMuseumofArt.org.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Teaching for Creativity: Boundaries, Rearranging, Persistence, and Creativity

One goal for the Teaching for Creativity series is to present the voice of other educators who can share insights and approaches to teaching that nurture creative behavior.  Let me introduce you to Susan Stein, art teacher at Temple Emanu-El Preschool in Dallas, Texas and participant during the DMA’s 2011 Summer Seminar.  Susan shares with us a sculpture exercise that supports the development of persistence and innovation in her young students.

There are five different shaped pieces of wood in front of each child.

“Can we trade pieces?” No.

“Can I have more pieces?” No.

“Can I just use some of the pieces?” No, you need to use all five pieces.

What’s with all the “no’s”? Isn’t creativity about making your own rules, about not staying in the lines, about “yes”? As it turns out, some measure of boundaries actually promotes creativity through problem solving. When every option is available, we have too many choices, and this often causes us to go off our path. When there are some rules, as is mirrored in life, we feel we have someplace to begin, a structure to hang onto, and can more readily achieve our goals. Without rules you get chaos, with too many rules you get dictatorship. Guidance with flexibility is the key.

One of Susan's students works on a sculpture

The children arrange their pieces into sculptures without gluing anything together. A few children do their first sculpture in five seconds and announce that they are done. I nonchalantly knock their sculpture down and tell them to arrange a new sculpture in a different way. I don’t want them to get attached to their first idea. I look for each child to rearrange at least ten times. The more times they create arrangements, the more chances they take, and the more creative they get. They will eventually try placing big pieces on top of little ones, tilting pieces, and placing pieces to span a gap between two others. It is fascinating to observe!

Rearranging the same elements also lets you see the problem from different perspectives and in the process create new solutions. An example of this happens when you rearrange your Scrabble tiles and a word “magically” comes to you.

This process of rearranging again and again creates persistence. All innovative people cultivate persistence. You have to be willing to experiment with many ideas in order to find the ones that work best. Thomas Edison tried over three thousand filaments for his light bulb before he found even one that worked well.

After about fifteen minutes I announce that when they have an arrangement they are happy with, they can glue the pieces together. They are anxious to do so!

Many thanks to Susan for contributing to this blog and the dialogue about creativity.  You can contact Susan at Susan@Art-Experiences.com for more information about this exercise and workshops that she conducts.

Read about another preschool classroom in the August 2011 Teaching for Creativity post by Shadan Price.  What is happening in your learning environment?  Share your ideas and experiences with us.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Educator Resources: The JASON Project

In this Educator Resource series, I would like to introduce The JASON Project.  My first experience with JASON was three years ago, when I was the education intern for the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, Kansas.  We had a week-long marathon of Argonauts come through the Museum (the name derives from the ancient Greek myth Jason and the Argonauts).  Ever since then, I have been focused on adding science components to my docent-guided tours.
What is The JASON Project?
The JASON Project is a science initiative founded by Dr. Robert Ballard, a renowned oceanographer, and is led by a team of scientists to provide students with hands-on, science-based experiences.  The standards-based curricula are divided into five different units, and are designed for grades 4th-10th.  Since the beginning of the project, over twelve million students and teachers have used JASON’s printable curriculum, including myself.  The best part about The JASON Project is that it’s completely free for educators.
How does The Jason Project apply to art teachers and the Museum?
The relationship between art and science dates back to antiquity and has provided our society with many great disciplines including architecture, engineering, communication design, and the visual arts.  Today, discovering art with a scientific lens can be easy, with the right tools, of course.  One of the best tools to connect art with science is The Jason Project.

One of my favorite units of The JASON Project is Operation: Tectonic Fury.  This geology-based unit provides an in-depth look into what makes Earth’s landscape unique: minerals and rocks.  The rock cycle can apply to many of the works of art in our Museum.

The properties of sedimentary rocks

For example, let’s look at Vishnu as Varaha.  This object is not only incredible for the heroic story that it illustrates, but also for the natural properties it possesses.  Vishnu as Varaha is made from sandstone, a sedimentary rock, which is formed when sand becomes compacted and lithified, a process where loose sediment becomes solid.

Vishnu as Varaha, India, 10th Century, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E.E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen

Another unit that I reference while teaching in the galleries is Operation: Monster Storms.  This unit discusses the dynamic weather patterns and how those patterns can effect society.  Two divisions of this unit that are applicable to some objects in the Museum are wind and rain.  The water cycle is a great diagram that describes the evaporation and precipation process.

The water cycle

The discussion of rain can be applied to many different works of our in our collection, but my favorite one to use is A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm.  This composition gracefully depicts a treachous storm approaching from the distance, spouting out rain and forceful wind.

A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, Joseph-Claude Vernet, 1775, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund

The JASON Project can be an invaluable resource when connecting science with art.  The organization provides us with teachable material, and a curriculum that we can continue to connect science with our own passion for the arts.  I hope these small examples provide inspiration for future collaborations with science and art!
Sincerely,
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Teaching for Creativity: A Few Good Books

I am often inspired by a good read and I am an equal opportunity reader.  I love both fiction and non-fiction books and find that both can ignite my creative capacities.  Through fiction, I escape the day-to-day to walk in a character’s shoes and visit places unfamiliar, perhaps discovering an interesting metaphor that results in a richer understanding of the world around me.   Encountering new perspectives from an expert in another field and reading about real-world stories and events are a few things I appreciate about non-fiction reading.   These too can lead to richer understandings.  Here’s a list of books on my radar presently (some in the mail as I write) for which I have high expectations of stirring my creative spirit.  After you take a look at this list, then share with us what’s on your bookshelf or nightstand that is provoking you to think in new ways and see the world with fresh eyes?

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer – This one comes out in March, 2012 and is the third book written by author Jonah Lehrer.  Lehrer has a background in neuroscience and a strong interest in the relationships between art and science.  In Imagine, he discusses new science about creativity and proposes that all of us can achieve increased creativity through effectively using a distinct set of thought processes.  Lucky for me (and others), Lehrer will be in Dallas on March 23, 2012 presenting at the DMA’s Arts and Letters Live programming.

Sketchbook with Voices by Eric Fischl and Jerry Saltz

Sketchbook with Voices by Eric Fischl and Jerry Saltz – This collection of prompts from contemporary artists was compiled in 1986 by Fischl, an artist, and Saltz, an art critic.  The book was reprinted this year and I discovered it recently as I ambled through a museum gift shop.  Full of empty, ready-to-be-filled pages, this sketchbook includes inspirations from artists such as Richard Serra, Susan Rothenberg, and John Baldessari.

Mr. g by Alan Lightman

Mr. g by Alan Lightman – This is the forthcoming book from one of our department’s favorite authors!  Remember the recent post about Einstein’s Dreams?  We cannot wait for Lightman’s new book to come out in January, 2012.  Lightman, like Lehrer, is a scientist intrigued by the blurred and crossing boundaries of art and science. However, Lightman explores these ideas through novels and in Mr. g, the story of creation is told, as narrated by God.  Alan Lightman is also coming to Dallas next year!  On May 20, 2012 Lightman will be the featured author for Arts & Letters Live.

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites – This is a recent addition to my “books to read” list.  I heard about it the other day on the radio and love the curious story behind the book.  In pursuit of wanting to know more about where things come from, Thomas Thwaites decided to build a toaster from scratch….

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Teaching for Creativity: Two Cool Web Sites

One of the ways that I like to inspire and motivate my own creativity is to surf the web and see what’s happening at other places and museums in the world.  When I find something I like, I will periodically revisit a web site to see what is new and also reconnect with some of the creative sparks that caught my mind on the first visit.  For this post in the Teaching for Creativity series, I am sharing with you two art museum web sites that are quickly becoming regular stops on my web surfing adventures, and are particularly relevant to the themes of art, artists, and creativity.

Tate Modern: turbinegeneration
This innovative website is based on the idea of international exchange and collaboration. Designed for schools, artists, and galleries, the Tate’s Unilever Series: turbinegeneration project is an offshoot of their annual Turbine Hall installation sponsored by Unilever.  Each year, the Tate Modern commissions an artist to create an installation for this colossal space.  The most recent Unilever Series artist featured on the turbinegeneration website is Ai Weiwei.  The next artist to be featured is Tacita Dean.  The installation created by each artist serves as the catalyst for students, teachers, and artists participating in the turbinegeneration project.  Through basic social media, participants can connect and share ideas and artworks that are inspired by the work of artists featured in the Unilever Series.  An online gallery of artworks created in response to the work of Ai Weiwei includes participants from Brazil, United Kingdom, Korea, Portugal, and India.  How cool is it to see how students across the world respond to the work of this contemporary artist!

Denver Art Museum: Creativity Resource for Teachers
This website from the Denver Art Museum launched several years ago on the premise that the creativity of artists can inspire the creativity in each of us.  The site houses a wealth of resources that can be sorted by artwork or lesson plan topic and grade level. Each featured artwork includes information about the maker and the inspiration for the piece, as well as things to look for and multimedia resources that may be useful for teaching.  

What websites inspire you?  Which ones do you find yourself returning to over and over again for creative ideas?  Share your websites in the comment section below – I would love to hear about them and add them to my web surfing adventures.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Self-Guided Visits: Tips for Teachers

Students enjoy Miguel Covarrubias's Genesis, the Gift of Life

Arranging a self-guided visit for your students is great way to explore the Museum.  It allows your students to encounter the Museum on your terms, observe art at their own pace, and spend more time in front of objects that interests them.  Setting up a self-guided visit is easy, and to ensure that your Museum experience is educational and enjoyable, try these helpful hints:

Getting Started

Sign up for a self-guided visit by filling out an online request form.  If you  have already arranged a docent-guided tour and would like to add a self-guided visit to your Museum experience, send me an email at Tours@DallasMuseumofArt.org.

Be Prepared

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of logistics.  Save yourself some time and energy by preparing before you visit.  Once you have a date and time confirmed, start considering the layout of your self-guided visit.  If you have a large group, break them up into smaller groups before you visit.  Smaller groups make it easier to navigate through the galleries, and dividing them before you arrive gives you more time to spend in the galleries. 

Have a Game Plan

Most visitors feel that they need to see everything when they come to the Museum.  While every object on display deserves to be seen and appreciated, it’s just not feasible to see everything in our collection, unless you can spare a couple of hours.  Instead, challenge your students to focus on a handful of objects that encompass a topic or theme learned in class.  Short on inspiration?  Check out our online teaching materials for themes used on docent-guided tours.

Students in the European galleries

Be Creative

As teachers, you learn to be creative in just about every situation.  Consider your self-guided visit as another opportunity to show off your inventiveness.  Try adding some of these activities to your self-guided visit:

      • Create a scavenger hunt.  This activity works great with large groups and can be a fun game for all ages.  You can find loads of factual information and teaching tips in our CONNECT teaching materials.
      • Incorporate a sketching activity.  Have students take a closer look by having them sketch an object.  You can incorporate this activity in your scavenger hunt, or have a more in-depth drawing session.
      • Take a smARTphone tour.  Don’t have a smartphone?  Borrow an iPod Touch from the Visitor Services Desk.

Make the Most of Your Trip
After you’ve had plenty of time to gallivant through the galleries, why not enhance your Museum visit by stopping by Center for Creative Connections.  The Center for Creative Connections, or C3, is an innovative space that encourages interactive experiences with art.   There are fun activities for all ages, and you can create a make-and-take art project at the Space Bar. 

Students Sketching in the Galleries

There are many ways your students can experience the Museum, and as a teacher, you are the architect behind their visit.  Remember, encountering art can be exciting and educational, so be sure to have fun!

Wishing you all a terrific Thursday,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Teaching for Creativity: Identifying Creative Potential

The focus on creativity this month includes a wealth of information to provoke further thoughts.  University of Texas at Dallas professor and creativity specialist Magdalena Grohman shares notes from a recent conference she attended.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we didn’t have a definition of creativity? One crucial implication is that we wouldn’t know how to recognize creativity or how to identify it in a given domain or across different domains.  What does creativity look like in science?  Math?  Language Arts?  Without knowing who is or is not creative, we would not be able to list factors that may impede or enhance creative development. Here’s what I learned from my colleagues in the Division 10: Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, during the 2011 American Psychological Association Convention.

So, let’s assume we understand creativity as an interaction between aptitude, thinking process, and environment. How does that definition help us identify creative talent?

THINKING PROCESS

Researcher and educator Dr. Roberta Milgram of Ariel University of Samaria, Israel, may have a couple of suggestions for you. In her talk “Identifying Talent in Mathematics and Science in Children, Adolescents, and Adults,” Dr. Milgram showed findings suggesting that each talent has two components: academic and creative. For example, for students to do well in math, they need to show mathematical reasoning and they need to know how to compute. But, according to Dr. Milgram, those students who are mathematically gifted also show that they can notice patterns and relationships and use complex and non-algorithmic thinking. Most importantly, they can apply original thinking with mathematical symbols that results in more than one strategy and/or solution. Let’s consider another domain—take language arts, for instance. A student that has a knack for language arts will not only show great reading comprehension and writing skills, but on top of that, s/he will also be quite observant and notice patterns and relationships, as well as similarities between remote concepts. In other words, s/he will experiment with concepts to come up with new and original ideas. This experimentation and creative thinking belongs to the thinking process portion of the definition of creativity. Skill, ability, motivation, and deep task commitment relate to aptitude. The take home message? Look closely for skills and intellectual ability AND for original and unorthodox thinking patterns that lead to unique ideas and solutions.

APTITUDE

Aptitude also “contains” our attitude towards creativity, which can be shaped by our self-perception.  It turns out that whether we see ourselves as creative people depends on gender. These self-perceptions are different in girls and boys, and it has profound implications on what students invest in, and what domains of interest they choose. Another speaker, Dr. Zorana Ivcevic of Tufts University, showed that girls tend to equate creativity with artistic creativity; hence, they may be more likely to see themselves being creative in this very domain. It also suggests that they may avoid even trying to be creative in other domains. Boys, on the other hand, equate creativity with science.  Furthermore, girls are more likely to associate creativity with challenges, whereas boys—with enjoyment. The take-home message?  “Women who consider themselves to be creative are likely to engage in the arts, while men are more likely to engage in the sciences.” What we, educators, can do is first to show that creativity is in every single domain, and second to encourage our students to build bridges between disciplines. It really is OK to encourage a science-focused student to discover art, and an art student to find beauty in mathematical equations.

ENVIRONMENT

We, parents and educators, are undeniably part of the environment that influences the creativity of our children and students. Again, we can learn from Dr. Ivcevic’s study—”Perceptions of Creativity in Croatian Elementary School Students and Teachers”—that whom teachers perceive as creative, and whom students perceive as creative have great impact on who ultimately will be identified as creative and talented. The environments that value obedience to authority, maturity in behavior of children, and discourage nonconformity may decrease creativity. Dr. Ivcevic’s study of Croatian teachers’ perceptions of creativity went hand in hand with the expectation of appropriate behavior in girls and boys. Moreover, students concurred with these perceptions, and nominated those girls and boys as creative who conformed to teachers’ expectations. In other words, “good boy” and “good girl” were seen as creative.  Young children were also seen as more creative. In another study, Dr. Ivcevic found out that younger kids were more likely to be seen as creative, but not older children! It seems that in a restrictive environment that values conformity, creativity is less appropriate as children grow older. Some of you may question the relevance of this study to our society that (we want to believe) values creativity across all ages. Nevertheless, the take-home message? In an environment where conformity and authority is valued over inquisitiveness, experimentation, and exploration, we may run into the problem of misidentification—mistaking “nice” behavior for a creative behavior.

Thank you Dr. Grohman for sharing this knowledge with us.  If you have not had a chance to meet Dr. Grohman in person, she’s here at the DMA on the first Thursday of every month leading Think Creatively! workshops in the Center for Creative Connections.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships


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