Free spirit at age five years, but by six?
Well let’s just say school had changed me.
It seems as we get older we become less and less imaginative. This drastic decline in our ability to create shocks me. I wonder who is to blame? The school system or our society as a whole?
As a pre-school child I felt free. Free to dig in the dirt and find wiggly worms or blow bubbles and wonder how its transparent shimmering surface traps every colour.
The wonder, the play and the exploration were pushed further back with every year that I was in school and that free spirit was shut away.
It was only in Dunny world that the spirit lived. The imaginary world of otherness that was far more interesting than school. A place that I started to draw. I would draw in the margins of my notebook, or create characters with funny eyes and ears out of cursive letters, or see faces in the speckled pattern on the ceiling.
“Emily? Are you listening?” they’d ask peering over my notebook. “We are learning math not drawing!”
A heart clench, a sweaty palm, a crumpled paper; these are some of my memories of school.
What a pity I say.
Creating was my way of learning. But sometimes in school it didn’t always feel accepted. I felt like some teachers didn’t recognize my creative strengths.
Every child needs windows to explore ideas and create in the classroom and to feel like their unique intelligence is valued. There are seven kinds of smart that Professor Howard Gardner wrote in his book Frames of Mind at Harvard University. The seven basic intelligences are:
1) Linguistic: Children have a natural ability to learn through language. They learn by seeing, hearing and saying words. The best way to engage these learners is through books on tape and engaging them in meaningful discussions.
2) Spatial: Kids that are spatial learn visually through images, pictures, film, charts and diagrams. They also learn by hearing or creating stories through visualization strategies and hands on art activities.
3) Bodily-Kinesthetic-Children with this intelligence excel in activities that involve movement or working with their hands. They like activities such as drama, creative movement, hands-on science and of course sports of varying kind.
4) Musical: Children that are musically gifted often learn through rhythm and melody. They can memorize important facts by singing or creating a beat.
5) Interpersonal: These kids learn best with others and are social. They like group activities and thrive on brainstorming activities. They need social games, community projects, clubs or volunteer organizations.
6) Logical-Mathematical: Children think in concrete concepts and skill based problem solving. They like patterns and relationships. These kids like logic puzzles, and games and relational concrete answers to their many questions.
7) Intrapersonal: The quiet learner. These children love space and time and self direction. They thrive in independent activities where there is freedom to learn and explore.
I believe I am a Spatial and Interpersonal learner. I needed more opportunities as a kid to learn with visuals and in group discussion and brainstorming.
Traditional school thrives on the Logical-Mathematical intelligence because it is easy to measure through tests and worksheets. But this is but one area of our intelligence. The one answer approach doesn’t seem to fit the natural world, so why should it be forced into our way of thinking on such a profound level?
I wonder if the logical approach in schools prevents us from thinking beyond and developing the full potential of our mind?
I wonder what school and learning would look like if all the intelligences were recognized and used to help kids think and learn?
It is true that certain schools have attempted alternative learning styles such as Montessori and Waldorf, but
I wonder what would happen if there were a collective shift to broaden creative thinking and imagination in the classroom by seeing each child as unique. The child needs to know what their unique intelligence is if they are to be truly creative and use their imagination.
Would our world be further ahead?
Albert Einstein reflects:
When I examined myself and my methods of thought, I came to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
I think there is a deep yearning, at all ages, for more freedom in our thoughts and lives today.
I wonder what our future would look like if the spirit of creativity were still intact and present in adulthood?
Think of the possibilities…they may be far beyond our wildest ideas, perhaps they are even infinite.
Consider posting what your natural intelligences are or ways that imaginative thinking can be fostered in the classroom.
I believe the answers to such wonderings can bring us closer to the truth about how we are intended to learn.
Robert McGarvey “Creative Thinking” USAIR, June 1990, p. 36
Thomas Armstrong, PH.D. “Awakening your child’s Natural Genius. Enhancing Curiosity, Creativity and Learning Ability.”St Martin’s Press 1991, p.184-85.
Rick Ackerly, “The Genius in Every Child. Encouraging Character, Curiosity, and Creativity in Children.” Lyons Press 2012.