What is happening with our student’s creativity, better yet, WHERE is it? Something that I have been noticing now for the last several years is that as students get older, they are sadly less creative. I see this happening mainly around the grade 4 and up grade levels. It has nothing to do with nationalities or geographic locations either. I have taught in Venezuela, Indonesia, Turkey, Bahrain and Bolivia and my observation as an art teacher stays the same: As kids get older, they begin to lose their creativity and it takes them longer to problem solve and create new things and ideas. Are you seeing this similar pattern in your art room or even classroom?
Video games such as X-box, ipod/ipad games, etc are not helping our kids–they are numbing them and using up large chunks of their ‘creative’ time. Kids don’t go outside and make things, invent games, create forts and role play because it’s not safe anymore in many countries and cities. To make things worse, when kids do play or create things they are using pre-packaged stuff that is practically already made for them. TV isn’t helping much either.
What I love about students in the younger grades is that they are fearless. Anything and everything is possible. The word ‘mistake‘ is not part of their vocabulary and the excitement to try new things is so refreshing. Now I am not saying all students above third grade have none of these characteristics consistently shown by younger students. What I’m saying is that as students get older, they are lazier, less enthusiastic and find it harder to think outside the box. Nothing seems to motivate them.
What to do then? As art teachers, we can play an important role here and help motivate our kids. Let’s challenge them with lessons that involve problem solving, planning, working in teams or pairs and use less pre-made materials as possible. In my class for example, I order paint in the primary colors, white and black and kids have to mix their own colors- after they learn color theory of course. Sure it’s easier to give out purple, orange or turquoise paint but am I doing anything to boost creativity by going the easy way? Of course not! Let’s help our students think creatively, to use their imagination and dream BIG and become fearless again! Are you in?
Here are three lessons I call Creativity Boosters that I have found very popular with my students. They are fun and you can use them anytime especially between themes and projects. Of course all your lessons should nurture creativity and bring out artists, inventors and dreamers…but think of these boosters as warms ups to remind students to be their wonderful and creative selves again.
Creativity Booster # 1
D&T Challenge (Design and Technology): Make a Bridge in 30 minutes
This will be a super popular activity your kids will really enjoy, especially the older ones. Team work, a few materials, a time limit and a mission will certainly get your kids creating up a storm. I do these D&T challenges once a month with grades 3 and up and my students constantly ask when the next one is and love them. Other challenge ideas: Make a box/container, a useful tool using only newspaper and tape, a building, eco friendly device, etc…–the sky is the limit.
Divide your students into teams of 3-5 kids depending on your classroom size. For this challenge give out the following items to each team: colored tape, 6 pieces of 9×12 manila paper, ruler, pencil, 10 popsicle sticks.
Explain that all groups have 30 minutes to use ALL the materials and create a bridge that has to be standing and sturdy enough to hold up a certain weight like a box of paper clips or push pins, a cup with three crayons, etc. depending on what you have available and as long as it’s not too heavy.
Let each group feel the weight at any time with their hands but don’t let them test it on their bridge.
One of the pieces of manila paper (or white paper) has to be used to draw out a plan of their final design.
Set a timer and let the kids begin. Half way between the challenge, make a pause and offer the groups, the choice between 2 pipecleaners or 3 paper clips as additional construction materials. They have 2 minutes to decide which one they will use, one rep collects the materials and they continue with their challenge. Monitor that all the kids in the group are working.
When the time is up, each group gets to present their bridge, try the chosen weight to see if the bridge can hold it up for at least 20 seconds and discuss any challenges each group faced. Students could explain how they would make their design better for next time and comment on each other’s bridges.
Creativity Booster # 2
Doodle Line Masterpiece
This is another fun activity because it’s really interesting how these turn out. Kids are amazed at their ability to turn a simple line into art work.
Sit at one of the tables in your class with 9×12 white construction paper for each student. Have all the kids stand around the table with you. With a black sharpie draw a simple squiggle or line and hand these out quickly. Any squiggle will do. A more difficult one for older kids.
Tell you students they need to turn the black line into a picture and color it in with every other color except the black color so the squiggle or line is still visible. The students can turn their paper any way till they get inspired for their picture. Have them think about an idea for at least 5 minutes before they start drawing.
As a variation, have your students be the ones to make a squiggle or random line and swap with a partner.
Creativity Booster # 3
I have posted about this fabulous online drawing tool before because I think it’s a great way for kids to show their creativity using the computer that’s not your typical game. This free drawing tool lets the students be creative by using technology in a cool way. I also love the fact that the end result is different and quite artistic. Kids can print their creations and it’s a ton of fun. Try it out–you will be hooked! Here is the link to the post.
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