Why Nurturing Student Creativity is Essential (and 7 Ways to Do It)

by | Feb 6, 2017

In our travels, we’ve asked educators all over the world about the most important skills kids need to thrive in life beyond school. It’s pleasing to see that nurturing student creativity is very high on that list. In fact, it’s number 2, directly below problem-solving. But why is it so important, and how do we ensure we are letting students exercise these abilities in ways that will serve them—and the world—in the future?

Robyn Ewing AM and John Nicholas Saunders have this to say about creativity’s essential place in modern learning. This comes from their article Why Pushing Creativity Out Of Classrooms Will Stop Children Succeeding in the 21st Century, featured on The Guardian:

“As any passionate teacher will tell you, it is possible for education to nurture key skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, imagination, communication, agility, and empathy. And, as many studies will tell you – or perhaps even your own experience as a student or parent – the common path to nurturing these skills is to foster fun, play, and creativity in the classroom.”

As you can see, creativity is a lot like a compound muscle movement; exercising it benefits many different areas at once. To the above list, we might also add things like abstract reasoning, design thinking, cultural awareness—the list goes on. But, you get the idea.

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Nurturing Student Creativity, Not Technicality

In our quest to bring creativity into our classrooms, it’s vital for us to fully understand what it really means. Consider this: if you were to sit down and draw a model using a charcoal pencil every day for a year, you’d certainly improve at drawing a rendition of that model. Just like strength training, your muscles get stronger and more in tune with the activity over time. 

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This, however, has nothing to do with being creative. It’s nothing more than a repetition of motion leading to technical proficiency. Creativity actually enhances the value of the function through the form.

Rest assured, you are indeed creative. We all are, and when it comes to nurturing student creativity, we must realize it’s a process that can be taught and learned. It’s a whole brain exercise that involves both hemispheres working together. Understanding this is the very reason we developed Creativity Fluency.

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The Workplace is Changing

As you’ve learned above, students can learn to develop their creative abilities through a process like Creativity Fluency. It’s critical that they do because our global workplace is changing, largely due to advances in technology. The shift in valuing creativity for its ability to increase revenue by enhancing product value has been echoed in practically every market segment. Here are just a few examples:

From Paul Thompson, director of New York’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum:

“Manufacturers have begun to recognize that we can’t compete with the pricing structure and labor costs of the Far East. So how can we compete? It has to be with design.”

From Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management:

“Businesspeople don’t need to understand designers better. They need to be designers.”

From Robert Lutz of the GM Corporation:

“I see us in the art business. Art entertainment and mobile sculpture, that coincidently happens to provide transportation.”

From Norio Ohga, former Sony Chairman and inventor of the CD:

“At Sony, we assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance, and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace.”

From Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind:

“The wealth of nations and the well-being of individuals now depends on having artists in the room … we may not all be Dali or Degas. But today we must all be designers.”

All these insights lead to the realization that having creative people on the team is paramount to the success of any corporation wanting to innovate and inspire with its products. This means that ultimately any job focusing on routine cognitive work and repetitive mental tasks can and probably will be outsourced in the future.

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The App Economy

One example that reinforces the priority of nurturing student creativity in education is the rise of the app economy. Since apps became a household thing, millions of global jobs have been created. A decade ago, nobody would have considered a career as an app developer, because that market didn’t exist until 2008 when Apple introduced its app store.

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Since then (at the time of this writing, at least), more than 140 billion apps have been downloaded, and over $60 billion has been paid to the developers of those apps.

Creating apps and games not only takes strong programming and problem-solving skills. It also calls for an understanding of art, architecture, anatomy, composition, perspective, color, light, and shadow. Think about that—this is only one example of a creative class occupation that didn’t exist only a few years ago.

Beyond the Screen

The need for creativity as an unconscious ability goes beyond apps, and way beyond. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative answers.

Our students are inheriting global warming, overpopulation, the need for health care, water shortages, energy crises, and more. Students need to be able to think divergently and creatively in both digital and non-digital environments to create novel and useful solutions to these challenges.

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Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, reminds us in this article that being creative also requires doing a little “growing up.”  In essence, he stresses that creativity requires responsibility:

“It’s time for the creative class to grow up and stop thinking all you need to do to build a better community is make your neighborhood ‘so cool.’ We need a more inclusive society, a more diverse society, a better world for everyone. We can’t do that just by following our passions and finding meaning in our work.”

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7 Ways of Nurturing Student Creativity

  • Keep their interest: Examples like this one from educator Charlotte Brown emphasize the importance of using students’ interests to immerse them in the learning journey.
  • Give them space: Design a learning environment and a schedule that encourages play, discovery, and useful failure.
  • Involve others: Find ways to involve parents and the wider community in the students’ creative pursuits.
  • Keep it real: Connect problems and their solutions to real-world situations using PBL and inquiry learning tools like the Solution Fluency Activity Planner.
  • Never stop dreaming: Let students dream about solutions without borders and accomplishment without limitation. When designing a solution for a problem, lead them towards imagining what they want as opposed to just what they think is possible.
  • Use class strategy: Incorporate classroom practices like this list from Miriam Clifford.
  • Take risks: Stretch your students to take creative risks and do what they’re unsure of.

How are you nurturing student creativity in your classrooms, and why do you feel it’s important?

 

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