Ten Tips For Cultivating Creativity
To kick off the school year, Mitch Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab shared Ten Tips For Cultivating Creativity, an excerpt from his book Lifelong Kindergarten. The article breaks down helpful strategies for both educators and parents to create supportive environments that encourage kids to flourish creatively. While reading, we started to reflect on our work here at The GIANT Room through the framework of Resnick’s Creative Learning Spiral...
1. IMAGINE: Show examples to spark ideas
When a kid first enters The GIANT Room, they are surrounded by inspiration from fellow creators. We encourage kids to leave their projects in the space, both to showcase their creations and to inspire others. One example that comes to mind is a Birthday Cake project from our Highline Nine Pop Up. We had a kid who wanted to make a birthday cake that sang “Happy Birthday”. So, we helped her build it and taught her how to utilize Makey Makey and Scratch so she could add her voice to her cake. This of course sparked other kids to want to make their own special birthday cake, but it also inspired several kids to create objects that they could make “speak back”. One girl made a robot unicorn that said “I’m a robot unicorn!”, while another group of kids teamed up to make a symphony of talking bananas.
2. IMAGINE: Encourage messing around
One of our modules at The GIANT Room is Blank Canvas. In Blank Canvas, we invite kids to dream something big and build it out of their imagination. It could be a fantastical city, life underwater, or a giant interactive book. Kids have access to arts and crafts, electronic, and modeling materials to build what they dream. There is no end goal to their creations in blank canvas, just an open space to explore, innovate, and create.
3. CREATE: Provide a wide variety of materials
At The GIANT Room, we treat art supplies and technology materials in the same way; tools to create and in service of children’s ideas. Kids have access to markers, poms poms, glue sticks, cardboard boxes, scissors, paints, and glow sticks, as well as motors, LEDs, wheels, robotics, and electronic building blocks, sensors, and micro boards!. When we put these materials side by side, we notice that kids don’t look at them differently. Technology is no longer viewed as a mysterious black box; it’s simply another supply that they deem necessary to bring their vision to life.
4. CREATE: Embrace all types of making
We have no requirements when it comes to what you build in The GIANT Room. Some kids come in and build a robot completely out of littleBits, while others stick to strictly craft supplies. While we encourage kids to use both arts and tech, we never demand it. We also believe that art goes beyond just making. At our Highline Nine Pop-Up, we held a series of guest artists who stopped by to share their expertise, including a sewing workshop, an improv workshop and a rap workshop.
5. PLAY: Emphasize process, not product
In our Ups & Rounds labs, we focus on giving kids the tools and skills to create and take on the challenge of their choice. We take kids through the whole design cycle to solve a problem of their choice - analyzing the problem, generating ideas, learning new skills like coding, electronics, and modeling, and building prototypes. During our Ups & Rounds, each kid picks their own project to work on; we never go through a step-by-step project all together. This encourages kids to focus on how and why they are creating, rather than what they are creating.
6. PLAY: Extend time for projects
There’s no time limit at The GIANT Room. We’ve seen a family pop in for 30 mins, grab some markers, and create a drawing to hang on the wall. We’ve also seen a family stay for 3 hours building a miniature replica The GIANT Room, (The Tiny Room) equipped with a working fan, solar panels, and scrap bin. Additionally, when a kid leaves The GIANT Room, that does not mean their work is complete. They are encouraged and welcome to come back and continue their project at any time for however long it takes to finish.
7. SHARE: Play the role of matchmaker
Kids work on their projects alongside each other while working towards their own personal goals. By being in this “co-working” environment, kids often notice others using tools they may not be familiar with. When they ask us about it, we encourage them to ask the kid directly if they’d teach them. Kids love to be the experts and especially love showing off their new skills to anyone who will listen.
8. SHARE: Get involved as a collaborator
At The GIANT Room, we invite the parents and educators to get messy and sit on the floor alongside their kids. However, and most importantly, we encourage them to let the kid take the lead. Kids REALLY know what they want to create, but they might not yet have all the skills that they need to bring it to life. My most memorable GIANT moment was when I worked together with a kid to build a Makey Makey piano. As we started to build, he began giving me creative notes for how he wanted the piano to be (He wanted it to be vertical!) I assisted him in holding the pieces together and he instructed me on where to place each piece of duct tape. I had become the intern to a 6 year old boy! At one point, I jokingly asked him if we should start a business together, and he replied “That’s a good idea. I like how we work together”.
9. REFLECT: Ask (authentic) questions
The language we use at The GIANT Room is something we are very mindful of. In our Campfire module, kids have the opportunity to share their projects and receive feedback from their peers. Here they learn both how to give and receive feedback without feeling defensive. When talking to kids, we’ve found that when we respect them, they respect us and their fellow innovators in the space. We avoid calling their projects cute or funny. We avoid laughing at their ideas, and always welcome their contribution. When they present their completed projects to us, we ask them to describe what they’ve made, how it works, what function it has, and, if applicable, what problem it intends to solve. At the end, we always thank them for joining us and for their contributing to The GIANT Exhibition.
10. REFLECT: Share your own reflections
We love working on problems alongside the kids and always discover something new for us to learn! One example that comes to mind is our potato battery workshop. We wanted to create a mega potato battery to light up multiple LEDs, but we ran into trouble. Instead of scraping the idea and moving on, we thought through the process out loud with the kids. By showing them that we struggled and had to think through a problem, it encouraged them to open the dialogue and do the same. That resulted in a great discussion around parallel and series circuits to increase voltage and current, conductivity of our materials, and carefully troubleshooting our battery. When we finally lit up 3 LEDs with our mega potato battery, our excitement, kids and GIANT staff, was a scene not to miss!