Get out of their way!

“Kids are born curious. Period…. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.

 

And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t.”

The key point Neil deGrasse Tyson makes?

“Help them explore.”

Set out some binoculars or a magnifying glass or something as equally interesting.. and most importantly get out of their way and let them explore!

Embrace the Shake

“Embracing a limitation can actually drive creativity.”

“Could you become more creative by looking for limitations?”

“We need at first to be limited to be limitless.”

 

This is a really cool talk on so many levels. Phil Hansen talks about the art making process, breaking through a creative slump, and embracing the shake and how thinking inside the box was his answer for creating art that was outside the box.

He’s also running a kickstarted campaign called “Tell me your Story about…” which has 5 days to go! A multimedia artist, Phil Hansen is ” interested in understanding people and ideas through the defining moments of our lives, how they affect us, and making art using mediums that are representative of these moments.”

I really dig the interactive nature of his art making process and how he uses people’s stories to create his work.

I’m inspired and reminded that limitations can really push the boundaries of your creative thinking. Hmm.. thinking of ways I can apply this to my own art making.. or that of my kids… Any ideas?

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy

A Glimpse into the Future of Education: The Khan Academy, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

While watching the CBC News tonight I saw this feature on Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

We are hearing a lot about how the education system needs to go through some major changes to keep up with technology and the way that children are taking in information. Khan Academy is all about that.

CBC News was so excited about this story that they posted additional footage of their interview with Khan where he explains how this project started as video tutorials for his cousins. On his family’s suggestion he posted these videos to YouTube where he soon found random people thanking him for helping their children learn concepts in math that they were struggling with.

What’s quite fascinating about this story is that the Khan Academy is actually a rather simple idea when you break it down. Sal (as student refer to him) provides a series of online tutorials on various subject matter that is explained in a very easy to understand way.

Khan took this further and created a full application for classroom use where teachers can gather data surrounding each student’s progress including content they are mastering and/or content they are stuck on. This tool empowers teachers to know exactly which kids need assistance and which peers can help struggling students to master the concepts as they have.

As Khan says, he is flipping the classroom model. Students can first study the topic at hand through the videos, then once in the classroom can apply the learning while the teacher is present to guide students and help when needed.

“A free world class education for anyone, anywhere.”

In 2011, Salman Khan talked at TedGlobal: “Let’s use video to reinvent education”.

Khan’s big vision is “a global one world classroom”.

As Bill Gates puts it: “This is a glimpse into the future of education.”

The best way to teach creativity?

I’m all about options and looking at things from different angles and perspectives. This is why when I saw this Ted talk by Raghava KK, it awakened an important realization for me in my quest to learn about ways to nurture creativity. The following statement (a screen capture) from Raghava’s talk, says it all:

Raghava KK on Creativity, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Looking at situations, things and issues from different perspectives brings to light so much more information and IDEAS, thinking, and as Raghava points out biases. This next screen capture further intrigued my desire to teach perspectives:

Raghava KK's Ted Talk, Shake up your story, http://keepingcreativityalive.comIt’s so true, isn’t it? Understanding others’ perspectives equals empathy. So how do we teach perspectives to children? Here are some of my thoughts…

How to teach perspective:

  • Share stories, lots of stories about different places, different people and different experiences. Leave your bias out of the equation. Celebrate differences!
  • Observe the different styles that are out there. Different types of architecture, different forms of art and dance. Different types of music. Everyone has their own preferences. Recognize this and foster the attitude that we are all unique and value different things.
  • Practice looking at a situation from different angles. Again, this could be done through storytelling or through real life situations. As different people how they felt or reacted to a situation, compare notes and observe the similarities and differences.
  • Look at art, the more obscure or abstract the better and talk about what you think it is about. Notice how different people will see different things based on their own observations and experiences.
  • See how different people approached the same challenge using similar materials in different ways. Give a group of kids the same materials (for example recycled materials such as toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, elastics, paper, tape etc.) and give them a challenge. The challenge could be to make something that floats, moves, flies, or whatever you decide.
  • Experience a different culture or community. This need not involve getting on an airplane, although it could. Maybe there’s a mennonite community nearby or a local community centre celebrating a cultural holiday that is different than your own.
  • “Give children books that teach them perspectives.” Raghava KK.  Select great books that are set in different places and that share different types of lifestyles than your own families. Books that show that there are many sides to a story.
  • Write a book together. This book can be about one event but told from the point of view of different characters.

I’m sure there are many other great ideas, please share your ideas in the comments!

Video: Thoughts on the Creative Career

“If you want to be something start being it. If you want to be a writer you should be writing. Not tomorrow, but today. If you want to be an artist you should be drawing and painting.. Not tomorrow. Today. If you want to be a stand up comic, write jokes and figure out somewhere to stand up and tell them.”

So well said I don’t really have anything to add.

Just want to highlight some key points:

  • If you’re not doing that thing, ask yourself why?
  • Realize your rhythm.. sometimes you can take on big questions, large problems, other times work on small solvable problems.
  • You should consume a lot of things that you like.
  • You should get your work in front of other people.
  • If you want to do something you should just do it… Make it a choice. Choose to do that. If you want to write, write!

Around this time last year I posted his video An Invocation for Beginners. You can see more of Ze Frank’s videos on his website.

Is there something you want to be but not doing it? A running? A yogi? An artist? What do you need to start doing today?

Building Self Awareness and Confidence

Building Confidence in Kids, http://keepingcreativityalive.com

Through my contemplations about what it means to be creative I keep going back to one thing: Confidence. Having the confidence to try new things, to explore and to create.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things I can do to help my little ones build confidence.

A few days ago I came across a link to a blog article titled “Would you let your baby do this?” Intrigued I clicked through and read the article and of course watched the video. It really caused me to pause and think about my own parenting style and how I would have handled myself in that situation.

Then I was in that situation. A day or two later I was at the park with my girls. E went for the climbing wall and I decided that rather than help her climb the wall as I had the week before I would watch closely… and on a whim I decided to video tape the experience.

“I did it!”

This video absolutely captures for me what Janet Lansbury’s article is all about: allowing children the opportunity to practice their gross motor skills without interfering and observing the benefits!

What struck me the most as this was taking place is that E asked for help remembering that I had helped her before. She had developed a bit of dependency and thought she needed the help. I let her climb and she asked again “Mommy Help Evelyn.” Again I didn’t  say anything but I watched closely, not touching her.  (The part where the camera moves was me carefully watching to make sure I was there to catch her if she fell, but I didn’t touch her and she made it to the top!) In this moment she realized she could do it! I can watch this over and over and over again.

This video was her first solo attempt. After reaching the top, she went down the slide and practiced her climbing an additional 3 times, each time proclaiming “See! I did it!” with great pride and confidence!

Building confidence is a practice.

I share this experience here because it was a great reminder to me that sometimes it’s best to stand back (but not too far back in this case!) and observe. To let children practice, fall, explore, try, concentrate, make decisions, question and find their own answers because when they do the reward is so much greater than if I had helped her climb the wall.

This experience also demonstrated for me that helping our children doesn’t always help them. I’m just glad that I realized this soon enough that she didn’t not try because she didn’t think she could do it herself.

I have come to understand that creativity has everything to do with confidence. Building confidence is a practice that needs nurturing. It can be lost and found again. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts thoughtfully talks about this on her blog and offers ideas for inviting confidence back into your life.

Thank you Janet Lansbury for sharing your article again highlighting the benefits of RIE parenting and reminding me to stand back sometimes.

 Photo credit: ‘ I can because I think I can’ letterpress print by Print and Be Merry.

Video: The Importance of Creativity

The Importance of Creativity is a video that speaks to my passion for nurturing creativity in children:

Our children need key 21st century skills like the four C’s of COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING.

Oh how I wish there was a Children’s Creativity Museum close to me like this museum that’s in San Francisco! Truly an inspirational place, this museum features an animation studio, a community lab, a design studio, imagination lab, innovation lab, music studio, and spiral gallery which is currently showcasing an exhibit called: The World Through the Eyes of Children. How beautiful would that be? It’s an exhibition showcasing over 100 pieces of art work created by children from around the world that “aims to promote insight and understanding of children and youth art and culture from various parts of the world.” Oh, how I wish I could attend this museum on a weekly basis!

Video Screenshot: The Importance of Creativity

Every time I visit their website and blog I’m full of inspirational ideas to create and make and innovate! Forget the kids, I want to make stuff! 😉  Just kidding, (well, not really) but I have a few ideas for March Break projects…

 

I am an ARTIST… video

“… I totally believe that we’re all creative.” 

So do I!

A beautifully inspiring video of artist Danielle Daniel working in her studio. This video perfectly captures the pure joy of creating.

“Teacher, seeker, storyteller, word lover, truth speller, painter and tree hugger. As in one who hugs trees. Learning to take myself less seriously, live in the present, and stand in my light. Trying every day to embrace the good, the bad and the beautiful while learning to get out of my own way to live the life of my dreams.”

Drawn in to learn more about Danielle, I visited her blog to find out that it’s her birthday today and she’s offering 30% off everything in her shop.  I ordered this print called ‘Bosom Friends’ because it sort of reminds me of my girls, one brown haired one almost blondish and how they will grow up to be bosom friends.

 

David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

I’ll admit I have a tear in my eye as I write this post about this super touching and powerful talk about the loss of creative confidence that happens in childhood given by David Kelley at Ted earlier this year.  Kelley discusses his battle with cancer and how it inspired him to consider his purpose in life to which he explains:

“the thing i most wanted to do was to help as many people as possible re-gain the creative confidence they lost along the way.

I really believe that when people gain this confidence… they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they’re doing and go in new directions. We see them come up with more ideas so they can choose from better ideas. They make better decisions.”

To help him on his quest, he asks:

  • Don’t let people divide the world into the ‘creatives’ and the ‘non-creatives’.
  • Have people realize they are naturally creative and let their ideas fly.
  • Achieve self-efficacy; Do what you set out to do to reach a place of creative confidence.

The last point: achieve self-efficacy. Seems a little easier said than done, I’d say. According to Psychologist Albert Bandura whom Kelley references in his talk, four factors affect self-efficacy (according to Wikipedia).

1. Experience – Success raises efficacy, while failure lowers it. However “children cannot be fooled by empty praise and condescending encouragement”.  As parents we need to most definitely be aware of that. Instead, children benefit from consistent recognition of real accomplishment.

2. Modeling – When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases; when we see people failing, our self-efficacy decreases.

3. Social Persuasion – Manifests as direct encouragement or discouragement from another person. Discouragement is generally more effective at decreasing a person’s self-efficacy than encouragement is at increasing it.

4. Physiological Factors – Perceptions of physiological responses to stressful situations can markedly alter self-efficacy. For example getting ‘butterflies in the stomach’ before public speaking will be interpreted with someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, were high self-efficacy would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to ability.

Seems to me that as parents there is A LOT WE CAN DO to promote positive self-efficacy in our children. My thoughts are:

  1. Drop the empty praise altogether. Instead give recognition for good work and better yet allow the child to feel good about mastering particular experiences for him or herself before jumping in to say ‘Good Job’!
  2. Provide opportunities for kids to see others succeed. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking them to the park and watching other kids succeed at the monkey bars or spending time at the pool with a relative that’s a good swimmer.
  3. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. That’s my commentary with regards to point #3 above – social persuasion. Keep positive with encouragement.
  4. Recognize when your child is experiencing stressful situations (say the first few weeks of school or before a dance recital) and talk about it. Let them know that it’s okay to feel butterflies. It’s normal and natural.

Last thing I want to mention in relation to this video is that the subject of creative confidence reaffirms my blog title “Keeping Creativity Alive”. For a while now I’ve been contemplating changing the name.. to something more positive, more unique and more, well.. creative. But this video reminds me of my ultimate mission and passion: to help parents help kids grow creatively with confidence and has me thinking that my name might be appropriate after all… for now anyway. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Global Cardboard Challenge

Caine’s Arcade is an absolute touching story. What pulls my heartstrings the most is the proud look on Caine’s face and his sweet toothless smile!  There’s NOTHING like the look of pure joy on a child’s face when they’ve accomplished something they’re proud of.

What’s more is that this story and the response to it inspired The Imagination Foundation. “The Imagination Foundation’s mission is to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids like Caine.”

Today is actually the Global Cardboard Challenge where people around the world are hosting events for kids to create using just cardboard and their imaginations. Anyone anywhere can play. “The idea is just to bring the whole world together to play and celebrate creativity and imagination.”

What a beautiful story and important project. Love that Nirvan Mullick, the filmmaker behind Caine’s Arcade, says “this all started with going to buy a door handle” but ended up buying a funpass! He not only found joy in discovering Caine’s arcade but did something to celebrate it. Then did something even bigger with the attention his short film received by keeping the creative momentum going and starting the Imagination Foundation.  Goes to show that when you believe in something and put your heart into it, amazing things happen. I’m inspired… again.