The following is a guest post written by art education advocate Charlie Schofield.
There are a lot of things that I remember doing as a small boy whenever I teach inside my third grade classroom. Growing without any siblings in downtown London, I found company in my toys – my Batman action figures, those little green Army men, a cabbage patch kid that I cleverly named ‘Veggie.’ My favorite was Michelangelo Etch-a-sketch, which I used every afternoon to draw Veggie’s clumsy face. That was the beginning of my love affair with the arts.
I regret one thing though. I quite distinctly remember a small box right behind my Etch-a-sketch masterpieces. If only I played with the contents of that small box before, I would’ve been this generation’s Michelangelo by now. That’s an exaggeration of course. But it is a valid hypothesis I presume. Fast forward two decades, I am new putting that theory into practice. What’s that super amazing creative toy inside the small box I failed to utilize?
Let me give you three reasons why I think this toy is a great creative tool for art teachers.
Lego teaches kids to use their hands.
It seems like moving your hands and using them for different purposes isn’t necessarily a skill that needs to be taught. But you’d be surprised. It’s more than just common sense; motion and cognitive cognition is more closely linked than you thought. By exercising kid’s physical movements, especially in the hand and arm area, they are simultaneously activating the right side of their brain – image perception, intuition, and music adeptness. Stacking Legos doesn’t merely exercise the hand muscles, but also subconsciously enhances creativity.
Lego teaches kids to imagine.
We can all agree that grand creations start from little things. Here is a fine example of what a kid can do with Lego blocks.
Try and do this little exercise that I do with my students. Have them create something out of a limited number of Legos. Watch how these kids use their imagination to build something out of six, five, or eight blocks. This is great to ignite the childrens’ passion for building and creation. Who knows, these tots might be the future engineers, sculptors, and landscape architects of the future?
Even further, integrating the creative process with new media is a great way to boost the kids’ imagination. If you’ve been reading this blog before, then you know that there is an app for everything. Lego is no exception, and you can download apps made by the Lego group in the Google play app store.
Some of my personal favorites for the purposes of art education are:
Let the kids’ imagination run free with these great games.
Lego teaches kids that the box does not exist.
Imagine a bag of small blocks of Lego scattered all over the floor. This is chaos, and the process of making a defined structure with all of the fallen pieces – that is order. What’s great about Lego is that kids are trained to create order in any direction that they choose. There is no best way to create a Lego fortress. There is no proper sequence of blocks for a cool alien ship. There is no limit to how high a tower should be. There is no box. Lego teaches us that there are a million things that we can do, and a million more ways to do it.
About the author: Charlie Schofield is a tech writer for Techie Doodlers, geek dad, and educator. He is currently traveling Southeast Asia as part of an edTech campaign to teach kids about the wonders of technology. He is a painter and a supporter of education drives such as Lowe’s and Verizon.
The following guest post, written by middle school art teacher Chris Grodoski, focuses on the consequences of high stakes testing and his inventive solution to restore the rightful place of creativity in American schools.
20 years ago, I would not have imagined the challenges that face education today. Teachers are viewed as non-experts. Powerful groups make decisions about student learning and financially benefit from these new directions. What is most upsetting is the way students are being forced into route learning and fanatically tested.
The wide-spread mania of standardized testing has minimized opportunities for students to develop creative thinking skills in schools. This has been reported by 81% of elementary teachers, 62% of middle school teachers, and 54% of high school teachers. A narrowing curriculum has minimized instruction that would have otherwise developed creative thinking in students. And yet, 85% of college-educated, employed people report creative thinking as a critical asset for their careers. 99% of school superintendents and 97% of employers view creativity as important in the workplace.
This is a huge disconnect! Socially, we want creative outcomes but nothing we ACTUALLY do in education is moving that way.
As an art educator, one strength of our field lies in fostering creative thinking through learning activities that we determine. Importantly, these learning activities based on our students and their context. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues are being evaluated according to their school’s reading and math scores. According to the Kennedy Center, the percentage of these scores on art educator evaluation runs from 10% to 90%. This is beyond unfair – it is absurd – and needs to be contested.
Some talented educators and I have been considering this problem and how to combat it. We are all practicing educators and realize we cannot adequately advocate from the classroom. We also felt that such advocacy efforts should:
- Demonstrate the value of authentic creative learning in schools in a way that administrators and legislators can value
- Empower teacher expertise in judging student learning, and
- NOT standardize teaching practices.
Last fall, we developed rateCreative as a means to do this. rateCreative offers a means to revalue creative thinking in schools. Our online tools statistically validate creative thinking skills by compiling the expert judgments of teachers.
As an art teacher, I wanted our first audience will be my colleagues, all of whom have been hit the hardest over the last decade.
Although the site has not launched yet, we have put together an introduction for your review and knowledge. Education is big business, but our feeling is that learning and community trump all. As a result, we will need the help and support of art educators in getting the site launched. Our intention is to make it a free resource for educators.
Here’s 4 ways that you can help:
1. Watch our introduction video
2. Like us on Facebook to get updates on our launch
3. If you like what you see, SHARE with others!
4. You can follow us on twitter @ratecreative
If you have any direct questions, please contact us through our website .
We look forward to advancing art education, teacher expertise, and creativity in schools with you!
Chris Grodoski is a Middle School art teacher at Franklin Middle School in Wheaton, IL and has received several awards including the Illinois Art Education Association Middle Level Art Educator of the Year in 2012 and the NAEA Middle Level Art Educator of the Year 2013.