Here’s to the Creative Problem Solvers

The moments that I remember from my years as a  student were the ones in which I was able to be creative. During my freshman year, we designed book covers for our novel of choice in our school library. I chose Auntie Mame and I remember going back to the library often just to see my cover on the book on the shelf. In art class, after being given a blank canvas, I painted a full pit orchestra of a ballet with dancers on stage. My painting was a tribute to pointillism and it was truly one of a kind as I never painted anything like it again. In college, I wrote and illustrated a math story incorporating several mathematical concepts built on the premise of visiting a county fair. I still have that book to this day.

I understand the power of “non-structured” creativity. It encourages learners to express themselves while expanding their knowledge about an idea. It can also lead to more ideas that were not necessarily a part of the original plans because as kids become more involved with their work, they ask more questions, research and learn quite a bit more in the process. They should, anyway!  Creativity is bigger than drawing a picture, writing a song or even making a poem. Creativity also shows itself in how students choose to think about a problem and work through it. We tend to discount those moments as creativity but we should not.

In the world of apps and tools, we define creativity through the colorful tangible objects that kids make. Yes, kids can be creative visual artists, designers, writers, musicians, dancers and even singers. Let us also not forget about the creative problem solvers…which I tend to find encompasses a collection of every other creative trait.

It’s easy sometimes to identify the creative capabilities of kids who are artists, singers or writers but do we encourage the more abstract creativity in problem solving?

For example, how many times have you allowed kids to come up with a way to work through a problem? In math I understand that kids have to demonstrate a certain fluency concerning concepts, but asking kids to take on an idea as exhibited in their world, design the problem, come up with a solution, justify the reasoning behind it and present it is also a major portal towards creative thinking. Yes, the presentation at the end may very well end up being a video, book, poster or some digital creation. However, focusing on the thought process in creating the actual problem, methods of solving and justification is where the often unacknowledged form of creativity lies.

In other words, on our paths to adding “creativity” into our classrooms, we have to make sure that there is a more focused balance on the learning that students are illustrating especially in our content areas.

I kept art paper, poster, markers, colored ink, paint and devices in my room for the artistic bugs that sparked my kids. At the same time, I always encouraged and acknowledged the creative problem solvers…those who were maybe not so visually or verbally artistic but those who could see the world in ways that others could not understand right away.

It’s creativity at its best…natural, exuberant and undefined by me.


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