I was attending a School Literacy and Culture leadership seminar in Houston during which we were discussing the article “Imagination Conversations: The Call for Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation at America’s Imagination Summit.” One of the leaders asked the following question, “What if instead of focusing on a knowledge economy we valued an idea economy?”
Creativity in adults is highly valued in our society and it contributes to inventiveness, innovation, and social and cultural change. We know that creative people have effective responses that help them achieve their life goals and allow them to enjoy the journey. Creativity is both a skill set and an individual character trait that is developed throughout life.
A study from the article asked more than 1,500 CEOs, managers and public leaders what they consider to be the most crucial quality for competing in today’s world.
Creativity was the number one response. The article states that “there are many studies that support that this skill of creativity or innovation will increase in importance in the next few years and that our college degrees are coming up short in teaching this skill.”
Professional development for teachers seeking ways to inspire creativity in young children is hard to find. This is alarming to me as an early childhood teacher who is expected to give my students the tools they need to thrive. Education plays a key role in the development of innovative thinkers. Experiences that inspire fresh ideas are needed at every stage of the educational journey in early childhood. I have observed how children benefit from teachers who foster creative thinking. One of the most joyful parts of teaching is seeing children discover their innate creative potentials. Creativity should be a part of the learning plan in all subjects taught in school. When public schools eliminate opportunities for free play and/or the arts and curricula disregard creativity as a priority, children are not being prepared for a future that will depend on creative and critical thinking. We all will be losing out by leaving creativity as an optional skill to be developed in the classroom.
According to “Creativity Development in Early Childhood: The Role of Educators” by Doireann O’Connor (2013), activities experienced through the senses internalize the learning within the child so that it is remembered on a deeper level. This allows for strong creative foundations upon which knowledge and skills can be built. It is the role of the early childhood curriculum to introduce creativity through activities such as drawing, storytelling, problem solving, outdoor or pretend play, and building with natural materials. All children are creative beings. Their minds are made to be curious and explore.
There are questions that we must ask ourselves as teachers of young children, “How do we provide learning environments where imagination, creativity and innovation can flourish? How do we support teachers’ creative ideas that keep children’s brain muscles strong and free? How do we provide safe places where children are encouraged to take risks?” As educators we have the responsibility to teach our students in a way that best prepares them for their futures. We can make that difference by what and how we teach. So, let’s find ways to support an idea economy in our schools. Let’s make our classrooms a place where creativity deeply matters!
Authored by Emily Hughes, Teacher at Kujawa EC/PK in Aldine ISD and former Early Literacy Leadership Academy (ELLA) Resident Teacher