As parents we do our best to encourage our kids creativity and their sense of exploration at home and in school. An often untapped venue lies in the amazing power of a community-wide creative activity!
Picture this: A hot, windless afternoon at the local pool. One week before the start of school. A resourceful father and educator organizes a community activity that challenges everyone’s creative skills and results in a celebration of innovation and play!
Anthony Taddei, who oversees the local pool program, has scattered flattened cardboard boxes of all sizes, assorted broken pieces of kickboard material and rolls and rolls of duct tape on the grass in front of the pool. Parents and children crowd around him as he explains:
“You have thirty minutes to design and build a boat using only what you see around you: cardboard, kickboard material and duct tape. The first boat – with one person on board – to go across the pool and back wins! Start building!”
Groups of parents and kids immediately start gathering materials and building the wildest assortment of floatation vehicles I have ever seen. The engagement and concentration is focused and, best of all, playful.
Even before reaching the water, designs soar and collapse – which leads to group discussions to discover alternative solutions to the problem.
Readers of this blog are probably familiar with the tab on our site “Getting Started Understanding Creativity.” If you haven’t seen it – here’s the link
Some of the important creativity skills noted by researchers include:
–Produce and consider many alternatives
The community activity organized by Anthony Taddei incorporated those skills into a group activity. Sometimes we think of creativity as a solitary experience, but the power of collaboration can exponentially elevate the level of imaginative and innovative work.
There is increasing research in the field of creativity in groups that affirms how collaborative work can encourage and lead to the discovery of multiple and unique solutions to a given problem or situation. (For the fun of it – take a look at: Powers of Two – How Relationships Drive Creativity by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Shenk references neuroscience, cultural history and psychology to examine creativity – and along the way cites duos like Lennon and McCartney, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Pierre and Marie Curie.)
Now Back to the pool: The thirty minutes were up and parents and their kids carefully launched their “boats” in the pool water. And every device floated! …..but not all survived the test of floating with someone on board. Anthony Taddei blew his whistle – and the race was on between eight boats still floating with a passenger on board!
While one boat eventually crossed the finish line – the experience of families having fun and working together in a creative activity was the highlight of the day. And, as I learned afterwards – for some it was the highlight of the summer.
Every boat designed and assembled that afternoon was the result of collaboration and creativity.
As we continue to nurture the creative skills of our kids at home – let’s also take a lead from Anthony Taddei:
Let’s find more innovative ways to come together in community groups to exercise our creativity and stretch our imagination!