The other day, my youngest daughter came home with a piece of streaky, dirty plastic in her backpack. Knowing that the contents of this bag are typically random, often unnecessary “items,” I promptly recycled it and chalked it up to her pack-rat tendencies, with an “Oh, that kid,” shake of my head.
Flashback to a recent school visit with my (incredible) BVP Art Team. In January, we visited an art teacher, who, when talking about projects kids are asked to do by art teachers, posed the question of “whose creativity are we looking for?” We unanimously replied, “Well, our scholars, of course!” Smiling, she continued to make her point in the simplest way possible, by asking if projects in which every child is focused on copying an artist’s style, or mimicking the teacher’s solution to a design challenge, were truly asking for the child’s creativity. Whoa. Eye-opener.
Creativity is defined as the “tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.” We compliment others on it, we practice it and we want our children to “have” it. True creativity lives within all, blossoms at different times, and requires multiple avenues of exploration. It needs to be learned and cultivated, and it needs to happen for our scholars now.
Something important to realize is that the majority of us have had to learn to be creative to succeed in our jobs. Our modern world thrives on innovation, and knowing how to turn ideas into realities is a crucial component to a 21st century education (Google “STEM to STEAM” for more info). Our children need creative skills as much as they need science, technology, engineering and math training.
That wise art teacher also reminded us that the idea behind every creation also needs validation. Not every first-attempt is going to “look good,” or be considered aesthetically worthy for wall display. That’s where practice and perseverance are called into service. The part most deserving of celebration is the idea.
Remembering all of this, I immediately thought of my daughter’s dirty piece of plastic. I fished it out of the trash and asked her about it. Turns out, it was an idea. She was trying to create a rocket structure. She knew it was not her best work (craftsmanship), but that suddenly became beside the point. Her idea was interesting and unique. We discussed how she could make the idea again, how a change in materials might improve construction and what else she would add.
Here at BVP we’ve always prided ourselves on a rigorous, yet, explorative, art program. Our belief in high expectations for scholars has always included opportunities to experiment with media and practice skills and techniques. These days, we have new structures in place to help transform our art rooms into “innovation studios.” Our scholar-artists will continue to receive age-appropriate instruction in media, materials and art history to build their artistic skill set, while learning to create in an environment that celebrates and encourages independent thought.
So, at some point you, too, might notice an odd “item” in your child’s backpack. Hold off on the recycle bin – it might be an idea! Please give that idea a chance to be heard by asking your scholar questions like, “What is this idea about?” “How did you make it?” “What would you change if you made it again?” I guarantee you’ll be impressed. And smile a bit (especially, if you picture them in a suit and tie, while they “pitch” their ideas to you).
Now, a week later, after being given prime real estate on the kitchen counter, and at my daughter’s prompting (“Mom, I don’t need that anymore.”), it was truly time to recycle that dirty piece of plastic…and get the space on the counter ready for her next idea.
March is Youth Art Month. We hope you plan to celebrate creativity with us at “For Art’s Sake” on Saturday, March 14th (10am-3pm) featuring over 1,000 of the very best creative ideas of the year by our very own BVP scholar-artists!