Name Change on it’s way

Well, it’s been a long time. How have you been?

I have been slogging away, trying to find work in this recession ravaged environment that was once alive with arts and play projects! It must be happening somewhere – just not where I live…..so it seems.

Temporarily I work in a care home, providing activities for the elderly (and mostly very poorly indeed) folk. It’s heartwarming and rewarding at times – I have nurtured a great team of volunteers and we are fabulous at crafts and fundraising (over £1,000 since December – go us!).

My angle is to get people doing something they have never done before, such as mosaics or fabric painting: most people have been crafters in their lives, with some extraordinary skills in cross stitch and knitting, but why be reminded of skills you have lost when instead you can look at what you CAN do now.

Audrey used to knit, but with failing eyes and aching hands, why struggle to knit when you can become the most amazing mosaic artist! Just look at this…………..

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…she is well chuffed with herself and rightly so! Her lifelong love of jigsaws turning into transferable skills. We could start a cottage industry if only we could churn them out fast enough.

Best of all – this is made with recycled CD’s! All my skills are not being completely wasted!

Here’s hoping I can return to what I am best at very soon……I have had enough of Bingo for the time being!

Oh…and the name change? Soon I will become ‘The Art of Play’ and the domain name for this site will change to http://www.theartofplay.co.uk. I like this name, Play.Train (now sadly over) used to run a course of this title that I delivered training on a few times, and it really encompasses my approach to arts projects. I tried to think of a name that would cover all age groups, but finding it tricky, so may have to market my work with the elderly and other adults groups under another banner.

Any thoughts on the name?
What’s happening in your world of arts and play? Would love to hear.

Cheers
Jane

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The Art of taking the right kind of break

BBC’s Horizon programme about Creative Insight saw Californian Professor of Psychology, Jonathan Schooler exploring what made people have creative insights or ‘aha’ moments and whether these could be deliberately increased.

Experiments in thinking were set on the beach front; people came along to try lateral thinking puzzles and games. The idea was to see when and how they experienced the ‘aha’ moment of clarity and understanding how solve a problem.

One task involved thinking of as many varied uses as possible for a house brick. People were given two minutes to come up with creative and innovative ideas (paperweight, doorstop, hammer, weight training); they were then given a break for 2 minutes which involved one of three tasks: one group sat and did nothing for two minutes, another had the task of building a house with lego and the third was the very simple task of separating lego bricks into colour groups.

After the break they are asked to return to the brick and see if they can come up with more inventive uses for it. Guess which of the groups did the best? (I guessed wrongly!) The demanding task people did the WORST and the people who did nothing came last. It was the mundane, simple task group that came up with the most innovative uses for the brick; the simple task had given the brain enough time to rest and wander in whatever way it wanted to.

It is really important to take breaks when trying to come up with creative ideas or solve puzzles, but it’s best of the break is a simple activity, different to the thing you are working on, things like making tea, walking, mowing the lawn, washing up, sweeping or having a shower.

The programme also proved that simply changing your routine can make you more open to creative insight. A group of people were instructed to make a sandwich in a slightly different way to the usual way, and this small change gave rise to higher scores on a test of creative thinking.

I recall a friend of mine saying she had dramatically opened to new ideas after folding her arms and crossing her legs in the opposite way to her usual habits. The mind can easily get into ruts of thinking and it seems it does not take much to alter that, just small changes in behaviour and taking time to let the mind wander in between demanding tasks.

So, if you are stumped, take a break but it needs to be a break where your mind is occupied on something simple and different. It is good for the mind to be focussed, but not all the time. Occupy your body and let your mind wander freely.

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How not to waste 50 plastic bottles

February half term saw another project for South Staffordshire Council’s SUSSED programme of activities – this time it was ‘Glow In the Dark Bugs’ made from pop bottles with a glow stick inside.Alien bug craft

The good staff at the Council offices collected bottles for me for a month or so – 7 bin liners full! (Who drinks this stuff?!) We had enough for all the children and then leftovers…….did I stick them in the skip at the back of the leisure centre? NO! I had to take them home and see it as a challenge to invent uses for them.

A brief bit of sun here in the UK had me optimistically gardening (we are now freezing cold and wet again), so I wondered what help the 50 or so leftover bottles might be.

Some strawberries were emerging already and I recalled that last year I did not eat a single one, what with it being the  most bumper year for slugs EVER on account of it raining from May to September. I wondered how I might get to the fruits first this year – or at least give myself a head start.

Hanging the plants seemed the best option; I had tried this before but in hanging baskets, which took up quite a bit of space and I don’t have much room for hanging things like that. So the next bit if thinking was – can I make use of my yards of fence space? Yes was the answer and after a bit of trial and error I came up with this:

DSC07621Putting a piece of bamboo through seemed to be the best way to hold the weight. I use some nylon thread to hold them together, which has the added bonus of sounding like a guitar when you twang it – so I get to play my strawberry pots too!

You can see the structure better here, before I put the plants in.

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Here is another type of planter with a hole cut out of each side of the bottle. I have some of these in the greenhouse too

DSC07632And finally, some cloches over my self set celery and winter lettuce seeds. I need to use another 12 bottles to complete the fence hangers, and more for seeds as they emerge – so I think I can definitely use all 50 and maybe more!

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Top 10 skills children learn from the arts

This was written by Lisa Phillips is an author, blog journalist, arts and leadership educator, speaker and business owner. To learn about Lisa’s book, “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World,” click here. This was posted by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.

You don’t find school reformers talking much about how we need to train more teachers in the arts, given the current obsession with science, math, technology and engineering (STEM), but here’s a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote skills seen as important in academic and life success.

The skills she lists are: creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance  focus, non-verbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, collaboration, dedication and accountability.

Couldn’t agree more.

Read the whole thing here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/

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Beautiful images of play from around the world

These images by Steve McCurry show how play is one of the things that unites us as humans. What I love is that they include adults as well as children.

These would be wonderful to have around a play room or classroom. I am going to pick myself a new screensaver!

http://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/power-of-play/ETHIOPIA-10152

INDIA-10727

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Some great play resources from a USA Children’s Museum

From the Providence Children’s Museum, Rhode Island:

Unstructured, self-directed play is essential for children’s healthy development. But due to a number of factors, children today have fewer opportunities to engage in open-ended play. Here are some resources for more information and to encourage all of us to make time and space for kids’ play.

Follow the link for articles about play, a resource sheet of books, a play toolkit with great ideas for supporting play along with suggestions for activities; there is also details of their ‘Play Power’ exhibition.

Sounds like my kind of place!

http://www.childrenmuseum.org/AboutPlay.asp#

 

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Bob Hughes – Play theorist and activist

Just want to share a link for the wonderful Bob Hughes, a lifelong advocate for free play and play as a fundamental and essential part of human development.

A Taxonomy of Play Types in which he identifies 16 types of play that children display in normal play development

  • Play types: social, socio-dramatic, rough-and-tumble, exploratory, object, creative, communication, deep, recapitulative, symbolic, fantasy, dramatic, imaginative, locomotor, mastery and role play.

He has written many other books since then, which can be found at his website Play Education http://rphughes44.blogspot.co.uk.

PlayEducation came into being in 1982. It was created by Bob Hughes, a playworker since 1970, to address the chronic shortage of training and education opportunities in the field of playwork.

Since then PlayEducation has provided cutting edge play and playwork training and education for playworkers, childcare and early years workers, environmentalists, scientific professionals, architects and parents in locations as diverse as Northern Ireland, Germany, Japan, Wales, USA, Scotland, Argentina, England, Hong Kong, Australia, the Republic of Ireland and Portugal.

I am glad to see he is still active and promoting the message of free play, which still seems to need to filter through to government and education alike.

Bob Hughes

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10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking

10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking

1. Trying to Find the “Right” Answer

One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem. While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.  Many of the following mental blocks can be turned around to reveal ways to find more than one answer to any given problem. Try reframing the issue in several different ways in order to prompt different answers, and embrace answering inherently ambiguous questions in several different ways.

2. Logical Thinking

Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness. While critical thinking skills based on logic are one of our main strengths in evaluating the feasibility of a creative idea, it’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts in the first place.  One of the best ways to escape the constraints of your own logical mind is to think metaphorically. One of the reasons why metaphors work so well in communications is that we accept them as true without thinking about it. When you realize that “truth” is often symbolic, you’ll often find that you are actually free to come up with alternatives.

 

3. Following Rules

One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.  This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work. People love to celebrate rebels like Richard Branson, but few seem brave enough to emulate him. Quit worshipping rule breakers and start breaking some rules.

4. Being Practical

Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes to execution, but often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom. Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.

Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on its own for a bit. Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before.

5. Play is Not Work

Allowing your mind to be at play is perhaps the most effective way to stimulate creative thinking, and yet many people disassociate play from work. These days, the people who can come up with great ideas and solutions are the most economically rewarded, while worker bees are often employed for the benefit of the creative thinkers.  You’ve heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” All you have to realize is that they’re the same thing to a creative thinker.

6. That’s Not My Job

In an era of hyper-specialization, it’s those who happily explore completely unrelated areas of life and knowledge who best see that everything is related. This goes back to what ad man Carl Ally said about creative persons—they want to be know-it-alls.

Sure, you’ve got to know the specialized stuff in your field, but if you view yourself as an explorer rather than a highly-specialized cog in the machine, you’ll run circles around the technical master in the success department.

 

7. Being a “Serious” Person

Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.  Leaders from Egyptian pharaohs to Chinese emperors and European royalty have consulted with fools, or court jesters, when faced with tough problems. The persona of the fool allowed the truth to be told, without the usual ramifications that might come with speaking blasphemy or challenging ingrained social conventions. Give yourself permission to be a fool and see things for what they really are.

8. Avoiding Ambiguity

We rationally realize that most every situation is ambiguous to some degree. And although dividing complex situations into black and white boxes can lead to disaster, we still do it. It’s an innate characteristic of human psychology to desire certainty, but it’s the creative thinker who rejects the false comfort of clarity when it’s not really appropriate.  Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate. The fact that most people are uncomfortable exploring uncertainty gives you an advantage, as long as you can embrace ambiguity rather than run from it.

9. Being Wrong is Bad

We hate being wrong, and yet mistakes often teach us the most. Thomas Edison was wrong 1,800 times before getting the light bulb right. Edison’s greatest strength was that he was not afraid to be wrong.

The best thing we do is learn from our mistakes, but we have to free ourselves to make mistakes in the first place. Just try out your ideas and see what happens, take what you learn, and try something else. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong? You’ll often find the benefits of being wrong greatly outweigh the ramifications.

10. I’m Not Creative

Denying your own creativity is like denying you’re a human being. We’re all limitlessly creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think. If you tell yourself you’re not creative, it becomes true. Stop that.  In that sense, awakening your own creativity is similar to the path reported by those who seek spiritual enlightenment. You’re already enlightened, just like you’re already creative, but you have to strip away all of your delusions before you can see it. Acknowledge that you’re inherently creative, and then start tearing down the other barriers you’ve allowed to be created in your mind.

This article was taken from http://pm440.pbworks.com/w/page/30701307/Exercises%3A%20Ideation%20Tools%20and%20Techniques

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What happened when I swapped my children’s toys for beads and cardboard?

This is an article I thought worth reproducing as it maps the journey of a parent who changes her way of thinking about the kinds of toys and equipment her children need in order to have great play experiences.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk

What happened when I swapped my children’s toys for beads and cardboard? A minor miracle. . . once the wailing stopped. By Clare Goldwin  PUBLISHED: 00:02, 28 August 2012 | UPDATED: 03:34, 28 August 2012

My four-year-old daughter Ella is lying face-down on her bed, helpless with grief. Her tear-streaked face is buried in the duvet and she is kicking her legs furiously. In between muffled sobs I make out the words: ‘But I looove her, I waaant her,’ repeated over and over again. What has caused such a scene? Well, a nasty person took her Barbie away from her and refuses to give it back. And, unfortunately, that horrible bully is me. I admit I feel a pang of guilt, especially as over the past 24 hours I’ve taken away all of her other toys, too.

Playtime: Clare Goldwin with her two children Alex, two, and Ella, four. She has taken away their regular toys and replaced them with a short list of basic odds and ends for a weekPlaytime: Clare Goldwin with her two children Alex, two, and Ella, four. She has taken away their regular toys and replaced them with a short list of basic odds and ends for a week

There’s the play kitchen with its saucepan set, mini tea towel and pretend food, her farm set with animals, the tiny cot and her baby dolls, the supermarket play set with tills that ‘ding’, ‘beep’ and ‘ker-ching’ (almost) realistically, the vet’s centre, doctor’s kit and mini tool box. All gone. And she’s not the only one affected. With bad timing, my son Alex had his second birthday last week and received piles of presents. He’s barely had a chance to try them out, but already he’s barred from playing with a bus that plays a tune when you press the steering wheel; a pull-along tractor and trailer with a revolving pig; six cars; a garage set and fire engine that has flashing lights and makes three different siren sounds. I have also outlawed TV and DVDs. So no Peppa Pig for Alex at 6.30am, which he watches on my husband’s iPhone while we grab a few extra precious minutes of dozing time.

Outlawed: Clare banned her children from watching television or DVDsOutlawed: Clare banned her children from watching television or DVDs. And, most shockingly of all, no Disney movie after lunch for Ella while Alex sleeps and I catch up with work, emails and sometimes, I admit, Facebook.

I’m not totally cruel. My children still have some things to play with. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with building bricks, embroidery silks, beads, coloured pencils, coloured paper, pieces of cardboard, modelling clay and two toy figures? The research, commissioned by the makers of Ribena Plus, into the effect of the modern world on children’s play revealed that parents feel pressured to spend thousands of pounds on hi-tech gadgets and toys to entertain their children, with the average family spending £10,021 on toys before a child turns 18. Apparently, screen-based activities ‘dominate’ youngsters’ lives — something to which I can certainly relate. Yet, according to experts, children would be better off given just eight everyday items worth £6.12. They claim these will stimulate their imaginations and be better for their development.

Changes: Alex and Ella have had to make do without hi-tech gadgetsChanges: Alex and Ella have had to make do without hi-tech gadgets

But can they really keep a child happy? Not to mention quiet. While I’m sceptical about this, I’m also concerned about the amount of time my children spend watching TV and playing with branded toys, be they Peppa Pig or Thomas The Tank Engine. So I decide to embrace the challenge and see what happens. It’s fair to say Ella and Alex’s initial reaction to their new, slimmed-down toybox is far from enthusiastic. While Alex is, as yet, a man of few words — he just looks at me and says ‘Car’ hopefully — Ella doesn’t hold back.

‘I don’t want to play with Play-Doh, I want to watch CBeebies,’ is her response, when I suggest she might want to do some modelling.

‘Bricks are stupid. I don’t want to make a tower,’ is her retort to my next suggestion. Her reaction to discovering Barbie is off-limits makes me feel so guilty, or desperate, that I ring those behind the report to check if she can’t be included as a ‘toy figure’.  Sadly for Ella, Barbie is deemed just too commercial. Eventually, however, Ella’s tears dry and she consents to play with modelling clay on the proviso that I join in, tSo I am forced to spend an hour ‘cooking’ with some green and blue Play-Doh, with Ella making some rather unappetising ‘raspberry tart birthday cakes’ and Alex rolling his clay into pretend vegetables ‘Callot (carrot) there,’ he says proudly. It quickly becomes clear that these basic toys are entertaining enough — as long as Mummy is happy to play, too. The children are absolutely fine with them as long as they are not left to play alone. In fact, it takes them less than a day to work out that their new toys are actually pretty brilliant, as they are a sure-fire means of getting attention from me. But that does mean constant attention, which I’m just not used to.

Reluctant: Alex and Ella get accustomed to playing with cardboard and beads after having their toys taken awayReluctant: Alex and Ella get accustomed to playing with cardboard and beads after having their toys taken away

Over the years, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve said I’ll come and play with Ella and Alex ‘in a minute’, and yet I never do. When there are chores to be done — or I simply fancy a break — it’s easier to switch on the TV or push them in the direction of a toy that doesn’t require me to do anything.

WHAT EXPERTS SAY YOU NEED

Basic toysColoured embroidery threads, Coloured paper, Drawing pencils, Wooden shapes or building blocks, Modelling clay, Beads, Toy figures Cardboard pieces.

And, frankly, it’s also pretty boring for an adult to sit for hours making pretend ham and cheese sandwiches, or drawing identical pictures of kites and rainbows . . .  over and over again. Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education who advised on the report, says that my children’s response is typical. In fact, increasing the interaction between parent and child is a key aim of the pocket playground.

‘Modern toys have become more for the parents’ needs, in terms of giving them time, rather than what’s best for children,’ she says. Parents don’t have enough time for their children these days — not by choice, but because that’s how life has become. TV is the plug-in drug.’

That’s all very well, but by the end of the second day I am ready to throw my toys out of my pram. Not only have I been forced to interact with my children at 6.30am, reading them stories instead of reaching for the iPhone, I have threaded bead upon bead, stuck Plasticine to the sides of a cardboard box for an hour (because Ella believes this will transform it into a robot), and attempted to make a friendship bracelet from the embroidery threads. The jewellery is about as successful as the mini pompom we have a go at, which is decidedly floppy. I have also peeled countless gobs of Plasticine and Play-Doh off the bottom of my shoe, and swept up hundreds of beads. Hardest of all, though, is the lack of post-lunch peace. I feel I might go mad if I don’t get a few minutes to myself at some point during the day. But halfway through the week, I start noticing changes.

No, Mum! Alex and Clare's initial reaction to their new, slimmed-down toybox is far from enthusiasticNo, Mum! Alex and Clare’s initial reaction to their new, slimmed-down toybox is far from enthusiasticThere’s no asking for CBeebies as soon they wake up (although I confess we do lapse early one morning when we’re feeling particularly exhausted and allow Alex to watch a Peppa Pig episode in our bed) and, in fact, far fewer requests for TV or films than I expected.The weather is good and they start playing in the garden straight after breakfast. I am surprised to discover just how much I enjoy watching my children’s imaginations in action, and love the escapades Ella has with the little wooden figures that she names Maggie and Ben. They remind me of the peg dolls my mum made for me when I was little. Amazingly, when I do have to leave them to it while I put on a load of washing, they manage quite well by themselves. The interaction between the children improves, too. There’s no bickering because Alex has snatched Barbie or accidentally kicked over one of Ella’s elaborate plastic picnics.
Growing on us: Alex and Ella seem a little happier after some time without their modern toysGrowing on us: Alex and Ella seem a little happier after some time without their modern toys

They start to improvise and play with other household objects, too. A piece of pink chiffon and a pencil becomes a kite. One morning, they entertain themselves happily for half an hour walking around in pairs of my high heels. Even Alex.

Quality time: Clare says she will make more of an effort to play with her children, whether it involves Peppa Pig or some pencils and paperQuality time: Clare says she will make more of an effort to play with her children, whether it involves Peppa Pig or some pencils and paper

Another morning, I emerge from the shower to the sound of silence. Panicked, I dash downstairs — to find them sitting on the sofa with a book. This is a first. When I do have to spend some time on work emails, I have no qualms telling Ella that I can’t play with her — and she accepts it without her customary whining. But the biggest test comes on a tortuous three-hour car journey from our home in London to visit relatives in Salisbury. Can we survive without emergency episodes of Peppa Pig on the iPad? I put the box containing the pocket playground between their car seats, and that, plus a few rounds of I-Spy, genuinely seems to keep them happy. When, after seven days, the experiment is over, the children are undoubtedly pleased to be reunited with their old toys. Alex joyously whizzes his fire engine around the house, and Ella puts Barbie through four changes of outfit before taking her and Ken on an elaborate adventure. But the new toys haven’t been rejected, and the children do seem generally less bothered about watching TV. They have also carried on playing with everyday bits and pieces around the house. So will we return to our old ways? Well, yes and no. I’ll always keep an emergency pocket playground in the car, and there will be no TV allowed after breakfast. And while I’m not going to be giving away the toys we already have — it’s not realistic to expect the children to carry on playing with just eight things and, as a working mother, it’s also just not feasible to spend all my time at their beck and call — I will make more of an effort to play with them, whether it involves Peppa Pig or some pencils and paper. And who knows, I may even learn to love finding modelling clay on the bottom of my shoe.

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As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

By Peter Gray
Created Sep 17 2012 – 11:15am

If anything makes Americans stand tall internationally it is creativity.  “American ingenuity” is admired everywhere. We are not the richest country (at least not as measured by smallest percentage in poverty), nor the healthiest (far from it), nor the country whose kids score highest on standardized tests (despite our politicians’ misguided intentions to get us there), but we are the most inventive country.  We are the great innovators, specialists in figuring out new ways of doing things and new things to do. Perhaps this derives from our frontier beginnings, or from our unique form of democracy with its emphasis on individual freedom and respect for nonconformity.  In the business world as well as in academia and the arts and elsewhere, creativity is our number one asset.  In a recent IBM poll, 1,500 CEOs acknowledged this when they identified creativity as the best predictor of future success.[1]

It is sobering, therefore, to read Kyung Hee Kim’s recent research report documenting a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the last two or three decades.[2]

Kim, who is a professor of education at the College of William and Mary, analyzed scores on a battery of measures of creativity—called the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)—collected from normative samples of schoolchildren in kindergarten through twelfth grade over several decades.  According to Kim’s analyses, the scores on these tests at all grade levels began to decline somewhere between 1984 and 1990 and have continued to decline ever since. The drops in scores are highly significant statistically and in some cases very large.  In Kim’s words, the data indicate that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.”

According to Kim’s research, all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called Creative Elaboration, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way. Between 1984 and 2008, the average Elaboration score on the TTCT, for every age group from kindergarten through 12th grade, fell by more than 1 standard deviation. Stated differently, this means that more than 85% of children in 2008 scored lower on this measure than did the average child in 1984.  Yikes.

You might wonder how creativity can be assessed.  By definition, any test with questions that have just one right answer or one correct pathway to solution is not a test of creativity.  The Torrance Tests were developed by E. Paul Torrance in the late 1950s, when he was an education professor at the University of Minnesota.  During the immediate post-Sputnik period, the U.S. government was concerned with identifying and fostering giftedness among American schoolchildren, so as to catch up with the Russians (whom we mistakenly thought were ahead of us in scientific innovation).

While most of Torrance’s colleagues focused on standard measures of intelligence as a path toward doing this, Torrance chose to focus on creativity.  His prior work with fighter pilots in the Air Force had convinced him that creativity is the central variable underlying personal achievement and ability to adapt to unusual conditions.[3]  He set about developing a test in which people are presented with various kinds of stimuli and are asked to do something with them that is interesting and novel—that is, creative.  The eventual result was the set of tests that now bear his name.  In the most often used of these tests, the stimuli are marks on paper–such as a squiggly line or a set of parallel lines and circles—and the task is to make drawings that incorporate and expand on those stimuli. The drawings are scored according to the degree to which they include such qualities as originality, meaningfulness, and humor.

The best evidence that the Torrance Tests really do measure creative potential come from longitudinal research showing strong, statistically significant correlations betweenchildhood scores on the TTCT and subsequent real-world achievements.[4]  As the authors of one article commenting on these results put it, high scorers “tallied more books, dances, radio shows, art exhibits, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadershippositions, invited lectures, and buildings designed” than did those who scored lower.[5]

Indeed, the TTCT seems to be the best predictor of lifetime achievement that has yet been invented. It is a better predictor than IQ, high-school grades, or peer judgments of who will achieve the most.[6]  The correlation coefficients found between childhood TTCT scores and real-world adult creative achievements have ranged from a low of about .25 to a high of about .60, depending on which tests are included and how adult creative achievements are assessed.[6]

So, the decline in TTCT scores among school-aged children indeed does appear to be cause for concern.  Kim herself calls it the “creativity crisis,” and that term has been picked up in a number of articles in popular magazines.

Well, surprise, surprise.  For several decades we as a society have been suppressing children’s freedom to ever-greater extents, and now we find that their creativity is declining.

Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.  In the real world few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world.  But more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes.  We are also, as I documented in a previous essay, increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential.

In the next essay in this series, I will present research evidence that creativity really does bloom in the soil of freedom and die in the hands of overdirective, overprotective, overjudgmental teachers and parents.

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And now, what are your thoughts on all this?  In your experience, what fosters or inhibits creativity?  Have you seen evidence that either corroborates or counters Kyung Kim’s findings of a decline in creativity or the suggestion that current schooling practices and other restrictions on children’s freedom inhibit children’s creative development?

As always, I prefer if you post your comments and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions.  Often, other readers whose answers are better than mine respond to posted questions. Of course, if you have something to say that truly applies only to you and me, then send me an email.

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References

[1] IBM 2010 Global CEO Study: Creativity Selected as Most Crucial Factor for Future Success. http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/31670.wss.

[2] Kyung Hee Kim (2011). The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 23, 285-295.

[3]  Garnett Millar, Christine Dahl, and John Kauffman (2011). Testing the whole Mind—educating the whole child.” Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal, Spring, 2011 issue.

[4] Mark A. Runco, Garnet Millar, Selcuk Acar, & Bonnie Cramond (2010) Torrance tests of creative thinking as predictors of personal and public achievement: A fifty-year follow-up.  Creativity Research Journal, 22, 361-368.

[5] Mo Bronson & Ashley Merryman (2010). The creativity crisis.  The Daily Beast, July 10, 2010.  The Daily Beast, July 10, 2010.http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html.

[6] See: Mark A. Runco, Garnet Millar, Selcuk Acar, & Bonnie Cramond (2010) Torrance tests of creative thinking as predictors of personal and public achievement: A fifty-year follow-up.  Creativity Research Journal, 22, 361-368. Also:  Kyung Hee Kim (2008). Meta-analysis of the relationship of creative achievement to both IQ and divergent thinking scores.  Journal of Creative Behavior, 42, 106-130.


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