Is Your Classroom Environment Creative Enough?
Creativity in the classroom is something extremely important for young children today, it allows kids to express themselves, and their emotions in a fun way. But when I say creativity I do not mean just letting a child draw for a few minutes, or color in a worksheet, like I did when I was a young child. I am referring to real creative experiences where the child has control, and an abundance of open ended materials that force the child to use their imagination. I personally wish that I was given these experiences at an early age, I have always thought I just wasn’t artistic. I was never “good” at art, and really only got to play around with fun engaging materials in art class. Art was not integrated into my everyday academic lessons and I think it truly would have benefitted me if it was. When I’m in my placement looking at all of the young brilliant minds, this idea pops into my head because what if these children could have those experiences that I didn’t?
The Pre-K Counts I am observing this semester has eighteen children all at the age of four or five years old. The overall structure of this classroom is very well organized and the students have a lot of academic based instruction. The students are also guaranteed at least an hour of outdoor play when the weather permits. All of these qualities that the program offers are great and important but the one area of the program that concerns me is this idea of creativity in the classroom. At best the children have maybe one activity a day that involves art in some way. The most creative activity I have witnessed was children playing with thistle blocks, there was no directions or instruction, they were just allowed to create whatever they wanted. This is better than coloring in a worksheet, but it really isn’t overly thought provoking, or creative. Knowing that their day is mainly academic instruction these children have to be getting bored at some point, and I begin to wonder just how much of this academic instruction is actually being learned? I personally believe that the integration of creativity and art based lessons or activities would be a good supplement for this class’s curriculum.
Doing the Research
Children at the young age of four and five are sometimes difficult to please and engage in academic instruction. I notice this a lot in my field placement and I think with the inclusion of more creative activities and even some art based curriculum the students would be more engaged and more excited to learn. There are many articles that stress the importance of creativity in the classroom and provide amazing arguments to the benefits of this idea.
“Art at the Heart: Creating a Meaningful Art Curriculum for Young Children”
This article stresses the important of art based curriculum, and the benefits it provides to the children. Author Kelley Massey describes her efforts as a “studio director” at a small school in Los Angeles. She gives the reader physical examples and tangible results of these benefits that come from art based curriculum. She stresses the three main important characteristics of the materials used in art lessons or art based curriculum and I think they are extremely important to know. I sometimes even think of these three criteria for materials as what should be the standard in every classroom. As Massey states..
“Even the most skillful adult artist would have a difficult timeexpressing himself or herself with only red, blue, and yellow crayons;imagine the difficulty for a 3-year-old child whose skills are still emerging. I try to choose materials that are aesthetically pleasing, responsive to the children’s ideas, and open ended.”
These three characteristics of materials play a huge part in whether the activity will actually produce creative thinking, or get the students thinking out of the box. Materials like markers and crayons are very simple, and only allow for so much to be created. When offered an abundance of materials like watercolor, oil pastels, recycled materials, sponges, brushes and so forth the possibilities are endless. If you want to learn more about the benefits of art based curriculum you can click here https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/nov2017/art-at-the-heart , to read the full article.
“Creativity on the Brink?”
This next article has a different take on this battle with creativity but it starts by really engaging the audience. Author, Alane Starko, explains that creativity is on a fast decline, and there are specific things we as educators must do in order to prevent this in our classrooms. I enjoyed this article so much because it isn’t overloaded with scary statistics and facts about the decline, the article informs the audience why creativity in the classroom is so important to student success, and why we should fight to include this in our class curriculum everyday. Most importantly the article gives a step by step plan of action that almost feels tangible to the reader, like we know there is a way this can be done.
If you want to read Starko’s plan of action, or more about this article in general click here, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Creativity-on-the-Brink¢.aspx
With all of the research to back things up, there are real, serious benefits that come from integrating art and creativity into classrooms everyday. Children will be more engaged and excited to learn when the can be hands on with a material creating a piece of art that is relevant to the topic on hand. Similar to the benefits of play with children, when young minds are able to express what they have learned in creative ways they are more likely to remember and retain the important information from the lesson. There are many other important questions to now deal with like, “How much art integration is too much?”, “How can creativity be a part of every lesson?”, “Does creativity need to be a part of every lesson for the kids to reap the benefits?”, and a few more. With more observation and research I’m sure I will get to the bottom of this!