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Establish a Culture of Excitement at the Start of School


This year, establish a culture of excitement about the start of school.

So much of our culture is focused around lamenting school. Television advertisements celebrate the liberation of parents based on the start of the school year. Children are taught to dread Mondays and love Fridays. I agree that back-to-school is the most wonderful time of the year, but not because I finally get rid of my kids:

See Also: 7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity at Home

School is an opportunity for our children to work collaboratively to solve problems, engage with challenging ideas and information and question all the things they believe they (and their teachers) know.

Anna's kidsKids sometimes have a natural aversion to challenges, especially if they are not taught a skill set of how to approach a difficult, new situation. They like to feel comfortable and feel in charge. Newness can be disconcerting for all of us. Before school starts this year, try asking your child about what he is anticipating at the start of school. If you sense some anxiety, ask your child what she is worried about and then turn that concern in to an opportunity. Children are yearning to be taught and open to new ideas and new approaches.

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Stay positive and help your child to be positive through his mindset and approach to novel situations.

There is a lot of buzz around the concept of student engagement, but we—parents and teachers, alike—can’t simply require that our children be engaged. Like any other skill, our students have to be taught how to engage with the material and situations they are presented.

Celebrate the wonderful opportunities school brings with and for your children, and they are bound to be positive, engaged and excited about the 1st day of school, and all of the days thereafter.

Article By Ms. Anna Mahon

Anna Mahon is entering her 2nd year as Principal of Amity Regional High school. She has been a member of the ARHS since 2000 as English teacher, English Department Chair and Associate Principal.  She is a former elite-level athlete in Track and field and former national champion and 2004 Olympic Hammer Thrower. She is the mother of two elementary school children and comes from a family of educators, including her husband, mother and parent-in-law.

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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.




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Creativity Chit-Chat: I NEED MORE INPUT Daddy!

Creativity is about Making Connections – Steve Jobs

I need more input Stefanie! Who remembers this line from an eighties movie classic? Short Circuit was one of my favorite movies as a kid. I was glued to the television as Number Five, speedily read through every book in the house as he craved more ‘input’. In some ways, the characteristics of this robot resemble our own little ones as they seek to obtain information about their world. The ‘Why’, the ‘How, the ‘What’ questions are all associated with their desire for more input – even if they become annoying after the Zillionth time of asking.

SEE ALSO: Hollywood’s Hidden Call for Creativity

What does this have to do with Creativity? Well some folks believe that in order to produce ‘something’ creative within a particular field, you need to master knowledge for that field. For example, if we’re going to produce something new and useful for the New York Subway, then we need to have knowledge of how subways work, it’s infrastructure, the commuters, and existing problems that need solutions, etc. – we need ‘input’.

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This example is perhaps too far into the future for our little ones to appreciate, but as parents we can better understand how information about a topic, combined with the ability to think creatively, will more likely lead to an outcome that can be considered creative, even if it’s audience is not as large as commuters of the NYC Subway. Creativity is about Making Connections – combining new and old information to make something new and useful.

SEE ALSO: What is Creativity

So where do we start? Well not only must we cultivate creative thinking skills such as the ability to produce and consider many alternatives, but we must also create an environment that supports our child’s need for input. Now some of you might be thinking – ‘that’s what school is for’. Yes, this is true, but I would argue that the system of education should really begin at home, and more importantly school is a place predetermined knowledge, so we need to offer opportunities for a variety of ‘input’ that expands beyond the classroom environment, and occasionally better accommodate our child’s individual interests.

Museums provide 'more input' for children. Here my eldest examines ancient artifacts at the British Museum.
Museums are a fantastic location for ‘more input’. Here my eldest examines an ancient artifact at the British Museum, in London.

Reading a variety of books is a great start, but with the World Wide Web we have access to so much more. I make use of YouTube, and was pleased when Google recently published their YouTube App for Kids. This new addition from Google offers more child friendly content, an easier interface to navigate, and the search bar appears to be better at formulating questions from keywords.

Promoted by Hurricane Patricia, which recently made landfall in Mexico as the most powerful Hurricane ever recorded. My eldest became intrigued in tropical storms. In his desire to know more– to see more – I put him in front of the YouTube app and set him up with some videos of Hurricanes, as well as educational content. Almost independently he was able to learn about category five being the strongest type of hurricane (though occasionally in his world he gets a Hurricane 1000), and he knows that they cause floods, and destroy towns near the ocean. Like Number Five, each new input takes him to somewhere new, and he was able to build upon this new knowledge to make connections and discover something new about his world.

Son: Daddy, Hurricanes don’t come here right because it’s too cold?

Daddy: Yes, they do sometimes…

Son: WHAT!!! (Being very dramatic)


Son: But they’re not very big right?

Daddy: No…

Son: ‘And we’re not near the ocean’…

Daddy: No (this might have been a tougher conversation if we lived further down South)

The brief summary of our conversation demonstrates how my boy was able to make connections with the new information he had obtained from YouTube. The thinking can be considered creative because it led to a new discovery, and while it might not have been useful to a larger group, it had value to him – this is Little C Creativity!


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Reading and Creativity: Ask QUESTIONS that engage CREATIVE THINKING

Questions leading to direct and simple answers do not improve […] thinking skills.

As parents we hear that regularly reading to our child is one of the most important contributions we can make to their educational development. In this article I’m going to reflect on the ways this pastime might enhance Creativity by asking questions that go beyond merely recalling information, and instead challenge skills in Creative Thinking – with specific examples at the end of the article.

My wife and I started reading to our boys as soon as they were born, and while I confess it can be difficult to make this happen every night, we’ve obviously done it enough to establish a routine, where they both happily jump up on the couch when presented with a book.

See Also: What id your child’s imagination could soar!

It's important to start reading young. Start with baby books that show pictures with contrasting colors.
We’re advise to read baby books that show pictures with contrasting colors.

As I begin to reflect on the relationship between reading and creativity, I look at my son’s love of making stories, that not only have a clear beginning, middle and end, but also a resolution integrated at the end of the story. Below is one of his short stories that we turned into a movie.

Looking at the subject of Reading and Creativity a little further, I’ve recently accessed some articles on the subject, and found that asking questions that stimulate the thinking process is one of the most important things we can do when reading to our children.

‘Questions leading to direct and simple answers do not improve […] thinking skills. However questions related to old and new information and which leads the individual to reach some particular values are beneficial for thinking skills.’*

What does this mean? Well I think its safe to say that we’re ok asking our toddlers to point out the Chicken, or the Duck, but as they get older we need to find ways to challenge our children to evaluate the new information they’ve been presented with, and combine it with what they already understand in order to make judgments or reach new discoveries.

Here are some specific examples:

  • For a new book you can start with the front cover and challenge your child to tell you what the story is about, and then follow up with questions on how they reached their conclusions.
  • When reading the new book you can engage your child’s imagination by challenging them to tell you how they think the problem will be solved. Again follow up with questions on how they’ve reached their conclusions. You might even ask them if the story/ or problem reminds them of another book you’ve read together.
  • Things can become more challenging when you revisit the book for a second or third time, but actually there’s an opportunity to engage creative thinking by asking the child to relate the story to their own experiences. For instance, you could cask them would do if the Big Bad Wolf knocked on their door, or if you want to challenge them further – help them identify the wolfs problem (he’s hungry) and then ask them to find another solution that doesn’t hurt the little pigs.

There’s a lot of information here, but the main take away is when reading, ask questions that engage thinking, and avoid those that are closed ended (have a yes or no response) or merely require them to recite what you just read.

To conclude – Read, Read, and Read (but don’t force it if a routine hasn’t been established).

*Nevin Akkaya, M. Volkan Deirel (2012)

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Ah Italy – what do we think about? Fine food, wine, crystal waters, sandy beaches… yes we experienced all of this during our family vacation, but also the unexpected, and a little more than occasional, thunder storm. What do you do with three children aged between 4-8 during a rain out in the mountains of Calabria? No Internet, no television, and dead iPads! In comes my brother-in-law to save the day with a suggestion of Legos. Legos? Luckily for us, my wife’s sister and husband who we were traveling with, had been sensible and packed accordingly, with enough of these wondrous bricks to be shared among three young energetic boys sitting around a kitchen table. The game was simple – create ‘something’ – which is not really anything unusual for Legos, but my bother-in-law integrated two additional elements that helped expand the creative thinking opportunities within this experience.

  1. He informed all the boys that they would be presenting their creation to the group.
  2. Each of them had to listen, and then respond with comments about what they liked about their cousins/brothers model.

Two simple additions, that not only helped engage them for more than 45 minutes, allowed these young children to showcase their imagination by explaining the purpose for each of the unique elements that they included on their model – and without explanation, would probably go unnoticed by most adults. The models were good, but receiving a detailed presentation made them all the more impressive, and allowed us to celebrate the creativity that had manifested over the past hour.

SEE ALSO: Prototyping a Sailboat: Introducing DESIGN-BASED thinking to young children

The feedback piece was also valuable to the cultivation for creativity, because it specifically relates to a previous article I’ve written about ways to introduce elements of Design-Based Thinking to young children. By facilitating comments on what they liked about each other’s creations, they were challenged to conduct simple observations and evaluations about theirs and others work. Had they been a little older we might have encouraged suggestions on ways to improve each model (and perhaps even getting them to think about the end-user as part of this experience).

After making a few observations - I feel the best bags of Lego must contain a few flats, wheels, long single row brinks, and a few unusual pieces from the space or fantasy sets!
I feel the best bags should contain a few flats, wheels, long single row brinks, and a few unusual pieces from the space/fantasy sets!

Yes this is a simple activity, and perhaps one that we might relate to a classroom, but how often do we as parents take them time to integrate ourselves into these types of activities? As an observer it still appeared to resemble ‘free play’ with Legos, and my brother-in-law was still able to go about his business during this time, but a few minutes of parent participation at the beginning and ending of this home-based activity helped expand upon the type of creative thinking that can manifest with a bag full of Legos.

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