- Reflect on what it means to be a creative school-age staff member.
- Identify how to engage families in promoting children’s creativity.
- Develop methods of creatively engaging with children, co-workers, and families.
“Creating is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” - Mary Lou Cook
How do you nurture and sustain your creativity in your personal life? Are there rituals or activities you engage in that make you feel more connected to your creative self? Are there individuals who inspire you to be creative? What are some things that spark your creativity?
How about your professional life? What elements of your work environment make you feel creative? Is it freedom to plan experiences and use materials? Is it supportive co-workers and administrators? Is it guidance and constructive feedback from colleagues or administrators? Is it sharing concerns and ideas and brainstorming solutions? Is it relationships with children and families?
Educational psychology professor James Kaufman identified eight elements of the work environment that cultivate creativity. In the Explore section of this lesson you will have an opportunity to reflect on these elements as they relate to your personal experiences.
What Does It Mean to Be a Creative School-Age Staff Member?
What are some of your own views about being a creative school-age staff member? Pause for a few moments to think about this.
As you have read in this course, creativity is a crucial part of the human experience. The ability to think creatively helps us rise to challenges, overcome obstacles, and create opportunities. Creativity is important because it demonstrates openness to new experiences. These experiences include having a good imagination, experiencing and valuing feelings, trying new things based on individual interests, and having a curious mindset (Kaufman, 2016).
In Lesson One, you had an opportunity to explore some of your own views on creativity. This lesson extends this exploration by encouraging you to think about creativity in your workplace and ask yourself what it means to be a creative school-age staff member.
In your work in a school-age program, you are responsible for creating meaningful experiences that incorporate creativity throughout the day. Being a creative teacher can be expressed in different ways. Here are some ideas of how to express creativity:
- Use everyday materials that might seem useless to spark creative work in your classroom
- Solve space constraints to create supportive learning environments for you and the children in your classroom
- Follow your curiosity
- Allow yourself to make mistakes
- Try out new things
- Be willing to accept new or different perspectives
- Embrace diversity
Keeping school-age children engaged in activities will require you to think outside of the box. Here are a few tips on ways to keep your planning creative:
- Brainstorm with other staff members. Great ideas are all around you—spend time with other staff members to think of fun and creative ways to engage school-age children. Spend time reflecting on what you enjoyed as a child and infuse those ideas into your planning.
- Brainstorm with school-age children. Who better to share ideas with than the children themselves? Plan regular brainstorming and idea-sharing time with school-age children to help give you an understanding of what they are interested in. This will also help you know what hobbies or activities are popular.
- Utilize resources. Work with your trainer, coach, or administrator to access planning resources. There are a variety of resources available for this age group, both in print and on the Web. There will be a few examples listed in the Resources section of this lesson.
Creativity helps you become part of a workplace community that feels welcoming, energetic, and nurturing. It helps you engage children, families, and colleagues in a range of meaningful experiences. Consider the following when engaging with children, families, and colleagues in your program.
Engaging with children:
- Bring your own creative interests, questions, and experiences into your school-age program and share them with children.
- Demonstrate interest and excitement when working with children. Inspire children to be curious and creative by demonstrating these attributes yourself! Play with the possibilities and experiment alongside the children.
- Use children's backgrounds, experiences, and interests as inspiration for ideas about creative activities in your program.
- Cultivate a climate of inquiry and love for learning in your program. Encourage children to pose questions. You do not always need to have the answers! Invite children to discover answers to fascinating questions or problems with you.
- Encourage healthy forms of self-expression by providing activities and materials for children to communicate through the creative arts.
- Create a learning environment that supports self-expression by demonstrating acceptance and kindness. Embrace all children and their unique and budding personalities. Spend time talking with children, listen to what they have to say, observe the ways they communicate through the arts, and encourage them.
Engaging with families:
- Invite family members to come to your program and share with children some of their own creative endeavors or observe and participate in some of your creative activities.
- Ask families to donate everyday household items they do not need to support your creative experiences with children.
- Encourage families to nurture exploration and creativity at home by explaining the developmental benefits of activities and offering simple ways to extend some of your program experiences.
Engaging with colleagues:
- Share your interests and talents with colleagues during staff meetings, lunch breaks, or in-service days, and tell how these interests drive some of the experiences you create for children in your program. Get to know the people you work with on a personal level.
- Exchange ideas with colleagues about experiences that foster creativity. Invite a colleague to come to your room, observe some of your activities, and give you feedback. Offer to do the same for your colleagues.
- Ask a trainer, coach, or administrator to come and observe your learning environment so they can offer you feedback about your use of creative experiences and materials.
- Acknowledge colleagues who are doing great things, who offer you guidance and constructive feedback, and who inspire you to strive for excellence and be creative.
What aspects of your work environment foster your creativity? In the Learn section of this lesson you were introduced to eight elements of the work environment that have been identified to cultivate creativity (Kaufman, 2016). In this section, you will have an opportunity to reflect on how some of these elements foster your creativity at your workplace.
Use the Creativity in My Work Environment activity to brainstorm about how these elements relate to your personal experiences when it comes to your own work environment. When you finish, share your reflection with your trainer, coach, or administrator.
Observation is an important part of being a creative school-age staff member. In this Apply activity, you will observe school-age children in the learning environment, watching for the ways they use the creative arts to communicate and express themselves. Complete the Observation Form: Communicating Through the Arts activity and share your work with your trainer, coach, or administrator when finished.
Berk, L. E. (2012). Child development (9th ed.). Pearson.
Grant, A. (2016, April 1). The surprising habits of original thinkers. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_the_surprising_habits_of_original_thinkers?referrer=playlist-kickstart_your_creativity
Hansen, P. (2013, May 21). Embrace the shake. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/phil_hansen_embrace_the_shake?referrer=playlist-kickstart_your_creativity
Isbell, R., & Yoshizawa, S. A. (2016). Nurturing creativity: An essential mindset for young children’s learning. The National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Johnston, P. H. (2012). Opening minds: Using language to change lives. Stenhouse Publishers.
Kaufman, J. C. (Ed.). (2016). Creativity 101 (2nd ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2016). And then there is this thing called the curriculum: Organization, imagination and mind. Educational Researcher, 45(2), 100-104. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43996904
Miller, D. (2015). Cultivating creativity. The English Journal, 104(6), 25-30. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24484423
Resnick, M. (2020, March 31). 10 tips for cultivating creativity in your kids. Ideas. TED Talks. https://ideas.ted.com/10-tips-for-cultivating-creativity-in-your-kids/
Trawick-Smith, J. W. (2018). Early childhood development: A multicultural perspective, (7th ed.). Pearson.
Wapnick, E. (2015, October 2). Why some of us don’t have one true calling. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en