School’s Out: What has your kid learned this year?


There is an Aboriginal tribe in Western Australia – they don’t celebrate birthdays chronologically – but only celebrate if a person has truly learned something. What if you didn’t celebrate each passing year just for the sake of +1 – but only if you really learned something – gained a knowledge tool that you didn’t have in your belt last year…or the year before…or ever.

What has your kid learned this year?

End of June – you’ve received your kid’s report card. You’ve scanned the pages of columns with the checks and grades – and gotten a snapshot of what? Do you really know what your son or daughter has learned? I’m talking about navigational knowledge – not rote knowledge. Rote knowledge is important – it’s the foundation – it’s the starting point. Truth north. It’s great for calm seas and clear sky.

Is that the future our kids are heading into?

Here’s my question & concern: Are we doing enough to teach our kids the creative problem solving skills that will serve them – when as futurists point out:

We simply cannot know what students will need to know in their future lives.

But we know one skill students will need to know in the future: learning how to learn.

Back to today: We do fine with assessing how a student did on a 6th grade math final.

Report Card lgr

But show me a report card that emphasizes innovative thinking or creative problem-solving skills. These are essential skills our kids will need to navigate a digitized world with boundaries so fluid that student avatars will fare better than classical cartographers.

It is our challenge as educators and parents to take a more creative and far-reaching approach to what we teach & grade in school and reinforce at home.

Below are three categories that probably didn’t appear on any year-end report card. I turned them into a discussion with my daughter about her 6th grade year:

  1. What have you learned about how to learn?

 “We did coding this year,” Natalie said, “and what’s cool is you get to create your own world…your own alternate universe.” I don’t know coding – and Natalie explained that in developing code there are gaps when you don’t have all the necessary information:

“Sometimes it’s like an incomplete puzzle – you may just get a few pieces,” she explained, “but it’s your responsibility to try and imagine the whole picture – as part of solving the problem.”

She added, “It’s like one move can determine the outcome. Might be right or wrong – but you have to try.”

 Research has shown that trial and error is a key component of the creative process and of all learning. Hearing Natalie mention making a mistake or failing at something led to a second question:

  1. What have you learned about how to approach a “difficult” or “confusing” problem?

“At first I got frustrated a lot. You and Mom tell me that mistakes and failure are part of learning. Like figuring out something new on my computer. I still get frustrated sometimes – but I learned – it’s okay not knowing what to do at first. I try to persevere. It doesn’t always work but…..when you’re down – there’s no other way but up. It’s really okay to make mistakes. ”

Time for me to step back – startled that this was an eleven-year old talking. I know when I was a sixth grader in a strict all-boys school – Dickensian schoolmasters publicly shamed and damned anyone who made mistakes or, even worse, failed.

 As parents – it’s so important to allow our kids to make mistakes on their own as part of the learning process.

It’s also important to celebrate their successes. But “What is a success?”   An A+ in history. Yes – acknowledge the accomplishment.

But parents must also be aware of less obvious accomplishments such as:

  • When a student struggles to understand any academic problem (and the fear and insecurity that bubbles forth) and then perseveres and solves it independently.
  • When a student fights through an uncertainty or insecurity and discovers a voice they didn’t know they had and expresses it as an idea or opinion or in a project.

Accomplishments like these are as important as any A+.

  1. What have you learned about creative problem solving?

“That it’s fun! It can be like the best playground. Anywhere!” Natalie said.

Natalie told me about a “great assignment” her science teacher gave the class. Students had to use their imagination to create an environment similar to a cell. My wife and I and Natalie sat around the dining room table one night and brainstormed about different possibilities. Some made sense. Some were ridiculous. But, most important, we tried to create an environment where it was safe to express any idea.

After some trial and error, Natalie came to us with an idea that we hadn’t discussed – the environment of a farm for the model of a cell: the farm house as the nucleus; the silo as vacuoles; tools, shovels etc. as lysosomes; and the surrounding fence as the membrane.


Often times our kids don’t realize the significance of a particular breakthrough. As parents we must make our kids aware of and celebrate their developing abilities in learning how to learn, discovering their unique voice and in creative problem solving.

Hopefully our kids will then circle these points on the map of their developing consciousness. We can help calibrate the compass they will use when facing new territories. But before we feel too self-important – we have to realize it’s the kid’s first compass – a starting point – and they may decide to throw away that compass – or use it in ways we can’t even envision.

Review the report cards you received in the mail. But go beyond the listed categories and check marks – try to discover the less obvious but equally important areas where your child may have broken new ground.

 Revisionist history has not been kind to Christopher Columbus – but he said something that rings true for any learner in a physical or virtual age:

 “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”


If you’re a parent you might be interested in the following articles from DadsforCreativity:

Let Your Child Daydream: Imagination is more important than Knowledge

Role of Trial and Error in Creativity

12 Books to read before you’re 12!

What if…Your Child’s Imagination Could Soar!


Read More

DadsforCreativity Talented and Gifted Child

3 Question Interview: Do you have a child who is Talented and Gifted?

A couple of years ago I become a member of the Connecticut Association of Gifted and Talented, I was particularly interested in this group of educators/parents because there was a desire to seek out opportunities to engage and cultivate creative thinking. Many of the educators were graduates from gifted and talented programs, where as the parents had children who had been identified as such. In my interaction with the latter, I came to realize some of the challenges and anxiety that exists for children who are talented and gifted, and more importantly the importance of intervention and support at an early age. – SCROLL DOWN FOR INTERVIEW.


If you’re a parent you might be interested in the following articles from DadsforCreativity: Introducing Design Thinking, Movie Making, 7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity at Home, Creativity in Education.


DadsforCreativity Talented and Gifted
Taking your children on a nature walk helps engage their curiosity for the world and is one of my 7 ways to cultivate Creativity at home.

Unfortunately, many schools lack the resources or training to adequately accommodate talented and gifted students, including the many who have an innate desire to create and make – I firmly believe parents of talented and gifted children can benefit from some of the content shared at, but I think it’s important that they primarily seek out a community of parents and educators who are not only subject matter experts, but also experienced in having a child who is talented and gifted.

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Do you have a child who is Talented and Gifted? One of the things to consider throughout this process is your child’s happiness and well-being, I encourage you to get informed, ask lots of questions, and locate resources in your area. Below is a 3 Question Interview, from the Connecticut Association of Gifted and Talented (CAG), it primarily contains resources for parents who suspect there children might be gifted and talented, or have been alerted to the possibility from experienced preschool or elementary school teachers.



How do we define a child who is talented and gifted?

There are many definitions as to what makes a child ‘Talented and Gifted’ but there is no concise, universal definition:

From the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC): “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports). Nearly every state has its own definition of gifted and talented students.  – See more here:

From the Davidson Institute for Talent Development: Many parents say, “I know what giftedness is, but I can’t put it into words.” This generally is followed by reference to a particular child who seems to manifest gifted behaviors. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions of the term, all of which become deterrents to understanding and catering to the needs of children identified as gifted. Let’s study the following statement:

“Giftedness is that precious endowment of potentially outstanding abilities which allows a person to interact with the environment with remarkably high levels of achievement and creativity.”

From Hoagie’s Gifted:  What is giftedness?  There is no universal definition.  Some professionals define “gifted” as an intelligence test score above 130, two or more standard deviations above the norm, or the top 2.5%.  Others define “gifted” based on scholastic achievement: a gifted child works 2 or more grade levels above his or her age.  Still others see giftedness as prodigious accomplishment: adult-level work while chronologically a child.  But these are far from the only definitions.

Former U. S. Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr., in his August 1971 report to Congress, stated:

“Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society”.

Talented and Gifted - Little Bits
There’s lots of toys that encourage children of all ages and talents to create and make. One of my favorites is Little Bits

What should parents do if they suspect their child might be Talented and Gifted?

There are many types of tests available if you suspect your child might be G/T. Identifying G/T students is mandated in the State of Connecticut so many public schools test for G/T, usually beginning in the third grade. For parents who don’t want to wait until their child is in third grade, or who don’t want to rely solely on the school’s assessment, there are independent testing resources available and the Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG) has a list of resources to share, all you need do is reach out to and ask for our list of testing resources. For a list of national and international resources, check Hoagies’ Gifted’s psychologists page here.

What are some of the resources available for parents of a Talented and Gifted child?

Minds in Motion™ events take place an average of 8-10 times per year in various locations around the state of Connecticut from fall through spring. Minds in Motion™ is the Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG)’s signature enrichment series which offers exciting, fast-paced, interactive workshops for every child with every interest, Kindergarten – 8th grade on Saturday afternoons.

Adults can attend thought-provoking, special-interest workshops and a keynote free of charge at every MIM™ event. At Minds in Motion™ adults will also receive free literature, network with fellow parents, and learn about resources, after-school programs, camps, books, and other educational tools beneficial to your child. There are also many other resources available too, some of which have their own programs and tools. Some of these resources include: AEGUS – Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students, CT State Department of Education – Gifted and talented resource page, CTY – Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, Eric Digests – Repository for materials from the former ERIC Clearinghouse, NAGC- National Association for Gifted Children, Neag – UConn’s Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. SENG- Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted and – Smart Kids With Learning Disabilities. There are so many others. Check CAG’s list here.

The interview above has been shortened – for the original interview click here.

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.




7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

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Exploring Color Theory Dads for Creativity

Exploring Color Theory: Tips from Artist and Animator, Samantha Olschan


If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice – my eldest loves to draw. I’m sure I’m not alone in having a child who appears unable to resist the need to express their understanding for our world through paper and pencil. Recently he’s begun to experiment with color, and so I thought it wise to seek the advice from transmedia artist Samantha Olschan, who’s worked across broadcast design, animation, compositing, and time-based visualization for television and film.

In the 3 Question Interview below, Samantha shares her insight into exploring color theory, as well as offering some ideas on how parents can heighten a child’s ability to better observe the world around them by noticing color – after all it’s all about creating and making, and every little helps!


 See Also: Drawing tips from artist and illustrator, Bill Dougal


What’s the big deal about color?

Color is incredibly powerful and plays a significant role in our visual experiences (whether we acknowledge it or not). Color has been known to increase memory, engagement, and participation, but also informs and attracts us. Think about your favorite piece of art, or your favorite brand’s logo, a favorite t-shirt or team jersey, the color of a loved ones eyes- the colors of these objects likely carry significant psychological and/or emotional attachment. Color is also incredibly complex and its implied meaning varies from person-to-person depending on culture, time, geography.

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 In what ways can young children benefit from exploring color

Color and shape are the building blocks for so many things your child will learn. By exploring color, children can begin to build practices that will help with communication and creative problem solving skills. From observation, to differentiation, to sorting to listening skills. Color also offers abstract thinking skills and can help children understand more complex (things) like perceived emotion, tone and mood. This is especially true when you ask young children about artwork (both their own and the work of other artists) The real head fake comes when you and/or your child realize just how much you can learn about and through color- color is math (color measurement in mixing & sequencing), color is chemistry (the evolution of pigments & color mixing), color is visualized cultures (history and humanities) color is art & design (art history, art making, designed objects, theater, performance, gaming, lighting, interactive experiences)- but most importantly, color is a fun and expressive tool.

I can’t remember my eldest’s age, but I made a note of what he said each item was. You can see clearly that even at an early age he useed color to distinguish between shapes.


How might parents and educators facilitate young children exploring color at home or in the classroom?

There are so many ways that you can use color and teach color, but I urge children (and adults) to constantly play with color and take “creative breaks” often. Something as simple as going to a local paint or hardware store for paint swatches can be adapted into a fun game of “color swatch memory” (just take home swatches, cut, flip, and play!) or “name that color” (i love guessing what colors are named before actually reading their names!)

Right now, I’m obsessed with the Nameless Paint Kit ( which completely eliminates the need for color naming. What we call Green is simply Yellow dot + Blue dot. It’s a great way for children, art students and adults, alike, to learn about color.

Nameless Paint Kit, is a great tool to introduce your child to mixing and making colors

With winter approaching, painting on snow with water color or diluted food coloring is a great way to take art and color outdoors and out of context.

Sequencing color on construction paper garlands to learn numbers, color and pattern. Using multi colored 8×11 construction paper, cut 2 inch strips. Link the strips together in a long chain and have your child repeat this sequence with color. This is a great activity that can also be adapted using everyday object like crayons, or small toys, or cutout shapes of construction paper to help with sorting skills with color and shape. 

iSpy- a classic game that can use color to help children learn to differentiate and observe their environment. For older children you can adapt this into “photo safari” (using a digital camera or phone) or scavenger hunt (collecting colored objects along a journey). Simply create a list that outlines what colors and shapes they are expected to find and see how they creatively solve the problem!

Art history color games- create an experience or game at a museum or looking at pictures of famous art. Ask your child to identify pieces of art that they like, and ask them what colors they see, or how the colors make them feel. Have them investigate how these colors are similar or different (For example: Rothko’s red vc Coca Cola Red, Yves Klein Blue vs Vermeer’s Blue, Klimt’s Gold vs Tutamkamen’s Mask Gold. ) Its a great way to introduce how color is used to communicate ideas and even more abstract concepts in storytelling, art and branding.

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.




7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More

Can a child's imagination go too far (1)

Can a child’s imagination go too far? Introducing Coconut Island

Hello World – I’m Coconut Island

Anyone heard of Coconut Island? I’m not talking about the Coconut Island that Google Maps will take you to on the island of Hawaii. I’m taking about the Coconut Island that now exists in the Indian Ocean. Yes, that’s right! Me, and my boy have been busy over the winter adding a new Island to our world, which I think makes for a good excuse for not blogging much over the last few months.

See Also: Imagination is more important than knowledge

Well to be accurate, my boy’s imagination has been busy manifesting a small horse shaped island not too far away from Madagascar, which has moved about a little, but now resides at approximately 10.479898 Latitude, and 42.710072 Longitude, thanks to the new world map we created in Photoshop (see below) – has this gone too far? Can a child’s imagination go too far?

The location of Coconut Island as described by my boy.
The location of Coconut Island as described by my boy. Was putting it into Photoshop too much?

It could be argued that my role as a parent on this project has been limited to a silent observer and videographer – but clearly I’m encouraging! I’m not really sure where the island came from, how it’s customs materialized, and why Mount Humainus, it’s tallest peak, was once a volcano, but no it’s not – I’ve learnt a lot about the island as part of our Discover Coconut Island series that we started on our YouTube channel.

It’s certainly been fun asking him questions about this epic adventure, which has just grown and grown and grown. Even his teachers and friends and school have heard about Coconut Island, and I’ve started to wonder if we’ve (or more specifically ‘I’) been playing into his imagination too much? What do you think? Can a parent’s encouragement take child a little too far beyond reality? Is that ever a bad thing?

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Here are 4 reasons why I’m ok about encouraging his imagination right now:

  • He seems to apply factual information that he obtains about the real world to his island. For example, we only heard about Mount Humainus after watching a show about Mount Everest.
  • Our conversations about Coconut Island, have given us reason to utilize Google Maps, learn about the Climate near the equator, and explore some of the things that I suspect will come up in his geography lessons.
  • He seems to be creating a ‘culture’ that has money, customs, and a value system. It feels like every time we share something new, such as what people eat in other countries, or what they believe, he takes this into his heard and responds with it’s equivalency on Coconut Island.
  • I think the initial concept of Coconut Island came about during a SKYPE call with Granma, so anything that adds to their relationship and brings them closer together is never a bad thing.

PS. I’m back – I’ll be blogging approximately once a week over the summer and have collected some FANTASTIC 3 Question Interviews, that I’ll be sharing soon.


CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.




7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More