- Reflect on what it means to be a creative school-age staff member.
- Identify methods of engaging families and promoting children’s creativity.
- Develop methods of creatively engaging with children, co-workers, and families.
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 supervisors? Is it guidance and constructive feedback from colleagues or supervisors? 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; it 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, 2009).
In Lesson One, you had an opportunity to explore some of your own views on creativity. This lesson extends on 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 a number of different ways. Here are some ideas of how to express creativity:
- Using everyday materials that might seem of no use to spark creative work in your classroom
- Dealing with space constraints to create supportive learning environments for you and the children in your classroom
- Following your curiosity
- Allowing yourself to make mistakes
- Trying out new things
- Being willing to accept new or different perspectives
- Embracing 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 supervisor 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.
Cultivating and Nurturing Creativity as a School-Age Staff Member
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 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!
- Use children's backgrounds, experiences and interests as inspiration for ideas about creative experiences in your program.
- Cultivate a climate of inquiry and love for learning in your program. 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.
- Invite families to observe and participate in some of your creative activities.
- Invite families to bring in everyday household items they don't need to support your creative experiences with children.
- Encourage families to nurture exploration and creativity by extending some of your program experiences at home.
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 about experiences that foster creativity with colleagues. 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 as well.
- Ask a supervisor, trainer, or coach to come and observe your program 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, 2009). In this section, you will have an opportunity to reflect on how some of these elements foster your creativity at your workplace.
Download and print the Creativity in My Work Environment handout and brainstorm about how these elements relate to your personal experiences when it comes to your own work environment.
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. Download and print the Communicating Through the Arts observation form and share your work with your trainer, coach or supervisor when finished.
Berk, L. E. (2000). Child Development (5th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Kaufman, J. C. (Ed.). (2009). Creativity 101. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Schickeadanz, J. A., Hansen, K., & Forsyth, P. D. (2000). Understanding Children. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Trawick-Smith, J. W. (2014). Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective, (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.