I often ask teachers and parents, "what do you wish most for your kids while they are in school" and I'll get a version of "that they develop a love of learning" or "that they can become contributing members of society" or "that they have the tools for living a good (i.e. happy, thriving) life." There's a lot of research that shows us that these things are all connected to our alignment to our creative potential. In other words, if we want these things for our kids, then we need to provide opportunities for engaging in activities that inspire and develop their creative abilities. Creativity has quickly become the most sought-after quality for top companies, as well as an indispensable ingredient for crafting a fulfilling career.
People often think of creativity as creating something from nothing. However the world's most creative minds are minds that reinvent reality, rather than invent it; minds that take what's already there and make something new from what already exists, sometimes combining disparate fields. Some say originality per sé doens't exist, including Michael Chabon, a Pulitzer Prize winning American writer. We are always just mixing our experience with our knowledge of what's already been done.
But how do we create schools that develop creativity in children? I
"Try new things!" "Take the road less traveled" and "Think about things in new ways!" are all great mottos but the reality is that kids who are stressed, or sad, anxious, or depressed will be much less likely to engage readily in creativity-boosting lessons, interventions, or pedagogical paradigms. This is why stress-management (aka Mind Management) must be an essential aspect of any creativity-centered pedagogy. In order to make the most of our investment in new, project-based, art-based curricula, we need to balance with opportunities, for silence, self-reflection, meditation, and introspection. We might call these activities mental hygiene. A turbulent mind, or a mind experiencing many negative emotions is literally more closed off from the world - our visual field literally shrinks when we're angry, sad, depressed. On the other hand, our ability to find novel solutions increases when we feel calm, serene, joyful, etc. We need to help students develop the mental states that are most conducive to even wanting to engage in creative thinking.
Mental hygiene is to creativity as a clean dishes are to enjoying a delicious meal. Calmness is a prerequisite for learning, and for being creative. They go together like best friends.
Written by Martín Blank
Martín Blank, MAPP, RYT educational consultant and teacher trainer is the founder and director of The Astronauts Social-emotional learning program and a former public and private school teacher and administrator. He supports school leaders, educators, and students to create thriving learning spaces by helping students manage difficult emotions and have productive (rather than destructive) conflict. He bases his work in social-emotional learning best practices, Positive Psychology, mindfulness. He is a certified breathwork educator and work in both Spanish and English. He holds a Master Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the 2018 Christopher Peterson Memorial Fellowship for his work in creating thriving school climates. He does this by integrating restorative practices, mindfulness, breathing and social-emotional learning best practices. He has worked with over 15,000 students, administrators, and teachers across North America. Here's a quick article on Martín from Penn. His work has been featured on PBS Nova's The Future of School. His research can be found here.