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Creativity: An Introduction

This lesson will be an introduction to the Creative Expression course. You will have an opportunity to reflect on your own creativity and what it means to you. This lesson will discuss the definition of creativity and why it is important for school-age children.

  • Reflect on your own ideas about creativity.
  • Define creativity and how it connects with a school-age learning environment.
  • Recognize the benefits of creativity and why it is important for school-age children.



Do you consider yourself a creative person? Sometimes when we think of creative people, we only think of those who are musicians, artists, actors, or singers. In reality, creativity can be seen in all people in a variety of ways. Being a creative person goes beyond the skills involved with drawing or singing and it involves people’s true passions. For some, creative expression means gardening, decorating, scrapbooking, or putting together the perfect outfit. For others, it might be creating bulletin boards, making gifts, landscaping, sewing, blogging, or photography. The list of passions that bring out creativity is endless. Now, think about your creative experiences as a school-age child. Were you involved in any creative activities? Did you have a passion for something special? It is important for you to reflect on the positive and negative creative experiences you had as a school-age child. This will help you to plan meaningful experiences for this age group.

What is Creativity?

Consider the following views that have been offered about creativity or creative individuals:

“Creativity is the ability to produce work that is original (that others have not thought of before) and that is appropriate (sensible or useful in some way).” (Laura Berk)
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” (Leo Burnett)
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” (Erich Fromm)

What words stand out to you as you read the above quotes? How do you define creativity or creative individuals?

Defining creativity is not as easy as it may seem. As you read above, creativity can mean different things to different people. It could be a talent, such as singing or dancing, or it could be a different way of thinking or being in the world. Creativity is a trait that exists in everyone. Regardless of individuals’ experiences with creativity, it is a disposition we can nurture and cultivate. Therefore, it is important to begin thinking about “how” an individual is creative rather than “if” an individual is creative (Cropley, 2015).

Creativity involves the imagination and the production of original thoughts and ideas. According to school technology consultant Doug Johnson (2015), creativity can be demonstrated in a number of ways:

  • As writers, presenters, and storytellers
  • As numeric problem-solvers
  • As graphic artists through drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, and designing
  • As athletes and dancers kinesthetically
  • As musicians creating new works, performing, and conducting
  • As humorists in all media
  • As team-builders and collaborators
  • As problem-solvers
  • As inventors and systems innovators
  • As leaders who organize, motivate, and inspire

When thinking about creativity from an educational framework, we usually think about the arts as subject areas. Creative arts subject areas include:

An Overview of Creative Areas

Visual Arts self-expression, visual and tactile art, print and craft media, analysis and interpretation
Literature poetry, illustrations, writing, storytelling, reading, and speaking
Music sound, pitch, rhythm, singing, playing musical games, listening, creative movement
Dance body awareness, fundamentals of movement, creative expression, multisensory integration
Drama acting, pantomime, improvisation, characterization, play production
Discovery scientific discovery, connecting with nature, cause and effect

Each of these subject areas will be discussed in detail in further lessons. Another important aspect of creativity is individual expression. School-age children will begin to develop an individual sense of style and personality. Creativity plays a significant role in this.

Creativity in School-Age Children

School-age children should be encouraged to express themselves physically and through ideas and feelings. We must help them acquire fundamental concepts and skills in the fine and performing arts through such things as drawing, painting, sculpting, music, drama, and dance. School-age children enjoy creating and enacting plays and they use their creativity when they make alternative endings to familiar stories or songs. They also enjoy figuring out how and why things work. They may ask the adults around them many questions and enjoy tinkering with tools or other objects that can be deconstructed.

Why is Creativity Important?

Creativity is an essential part of the experience of being human. All of us have the potential to be creative in what we do. When we are creative, we let go of fears, rise to challenges or obstacles and see new opportunities. When talking about creativity in his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Ken Robinson wrote: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Creativity is important because it allows us to be open to new experiences. These experiences include having a good imagination, experiencing and valuing feelings, trying new things based on individual interests, having a curious mindset, and being open to new challenges that may be unconventional (Kaufman, 2016).

Creativity is important because:

Creativity Supports Development and Success

Research shows that there are clear links between arts education and student success:

  • Shirley Brice Heath's report on community based youth organizations found that children who were involved in arts education for at least nine hours a week were four times more likely to have high academic achievement and three times more likely to have high attendance (Heath, 1998).
  • Milbrey McLaughlin's research on the effect of youth organizations on development found that children who participated in arts programs were more likely to be high academic achievers and have success in activities like running for class office and participating in math or science fairs (McLaughlin, 2000).

Creativity Supports Individual Expression

Without creative outlets, we could not express our individuality. Creativity allows school-age children to develop a sense of style and personality. It also allows children to find their passions and participate in safe risk taking.

Creativity Makes Learning Fun

Being creative with activity plans, routines, and the learning environment is a method of engaging children in learning.

According to Jeffrey Trawick-Smith of Eastern Connecticut State University, “artistic expression may be as important for brain growth as speaking, writing, and reading” (2014, p. 230). Experiences such as painting, drawing, or sculpting engage and connect multiple areas of the brain. Along the same lines, performing arts that engage children in acting, moving, or dancing are equally valuable for brain development. As highlighted in the Physical Development course, studies have indicated that physical activity in young children is also linked to brain growth and development (James, 2010). Simply said, children need to be engaged in activities that spark their creativity and expression.


Creativity: An Introduction

An introduction to the creative arts subject areas.


Chances are, you are being creative and implementing creativity daily — maybe without even realizing it. Creativity is an important part of development, and school-age children deserve to be able to express themselves in a creative way every day. This course will help you to recognize and apply methods of including the creative arts and self-expression in the learning environment.

Take time to reflect: Self-reflection will help you to stay in touch with your creative side. Take time to think about how you expressed yourself as a child and how it helped you to discover your passions as an adult.

Include creativity: Whenever possible, include the creative art subject areas into your activity plans and the learning environment. The creative art subject areas are: Visual Arts, Literature, Music, Dance, Drama, and Discovery.

Completing this Course

For more information on what to expect in this course, the Creative Expression Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the School-Age Creative Expression Course Guide

Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.


As a school-age staff member, it is important to take time to reflect on your own life and how it affects your work. This activity will give you an opportunity to think about your own creativity and how you can use that to infuse creativity into the learning environment. Complete the Reflection: Personal Creativity activity. When you are finished, share your work with your trainer, coach, or administrator. 


As a school-age staff member, it will be important for you to regularly observe the learning environment. This will provide you with time to reflect on the environment, what it has to offer school-age children, and how you might like to enhance it. Complete the Creative Arts Observation Form. When you are finished, share your work with your trainer, coach, or administrator. 


A trait that exists in everyone; the ability to have new ideas, solve problems, and think about issues in different ways


Your co-worker shares with you that they are not a creative person and are having a difficult time keeping their activity plans fresh and engaging. What do you say in response?
True or False? Arts education or creative experiences can positively affect academic achievement.
Which of the following is not an example of creative arts?
References & Resources

Berk, L. E. (2012). Child development (9th ed.). Pearson.

Cornett, C. E. (2011). Creating meaning through literature and the arts. Pearson.

Cropley, A. J. (2015). Creativity in education and learning: A guide for teachers and educators. Routledge Falmer.

Heath, S. B., Soep, E., & Roach, A. (1998). Living the arts through language-learning: A report on community- based youth organizations. Americans for the Arts 2(7), 1-20.

Goldberg, M. (2012). Arts integration: Teaching subject matter through the arts in multicultural settings. Pearson.

Gorman, A. (2021, January 19). Using your voice is a political choice. TED Talks.

James, K. (2010). Sensori-motor experience leads to changes in visual processing in the developing brain. Developmental Science, 13, 279-288.

Johnson, D. (2015). Teaching outside the lines: Developing creativity in every learner. Corwin.

Kaufman, J. C. (2016). Creativity 101 (The Psych 101 Series) (2nd ed.). Springer Publishing Company.

McLaughlin, M. M. (2000). Community counts: How youth organizations matter for youth development. Public Education Network.

Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. Penguin Group.

Trawick-Smith, J. W. (2014). Early childhood development: A multicultural perspective, (6th ed.). Pearson.

VanGundy, A. B. (2005). 101 activities for teaching creative problem solving. Pfeiffer.