Imagination is more important than knowledge

Let your child Daydream: Imagination is more important than Knowledge

Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

My co-conspirator to DadsforCreativity.com, shared an absolutely awesome New York Times article last week. This October marked 100 years since Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, which is something I barely understand and will not try and explain during this post. What I found most fascinating about the story is how Einstein utilized his imagination to generate his world changing theory about our universe (for those of you not familiar with the story, Einstein imagined he was riding a beam of light through space and this experience is what led him down the path to the General Theory of Relativity).

See Also: What if your child’s Imagination could Soar!

As pointed out in the NY Times article titled The Light-Beam Rider, Einstein ‘relished what he called the Gedankenexperimente’, this was his word for experiments and thoughts that he played out in his head. While none of us will likely claim to have the mind of arguably the greatest scientist of the Twentieth Century, we might still have some type of ‘crazy’ question or theory that we Gedankenexperimente with.

At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.
At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.

One of mine first began to manifest during my car journeys to Darbyshire to see my Mom’s family. As we sped up or down the M1 at around 70MPH, I would look out the window at all the objects that zoomed past our window. I used to try and make them go slower by fixing my gaze on an object in front, such as a road sign, and then following it as we passed by. I noticed that if I concentrated hard enough I could make the object almost stop in front of my window for a brief moment, before it disappeared behind me. As I played this game a question began to emerge – what would happen if a wasp entered the car and hovered in a stationary position just above my head? Would it zoom back at the same speed as the outside objects such as the road sign, and thus smash and splatter against our back window? Or would it occupy the same space as our car? While I suspected it was the latter, this only generated more questions – what exactly takes place between the wasp hovering 1mm outside my window and zooming by at 70mph, verses being 1mm inside my window and not?

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I reckon this question might easily be answered by a 12th grade physics teacher, and embarrassingly for me, perhaps it’s common knowledge to everyone, but this is the first time I’ve ever shared this question publicly and I still do not have a solution or more importantly WHY! (Hint Hint – comment below if you know the answer!).

As we think about cultivating creative thinking skills in our children there’s two things to make note of from my question about a wasp. For some reason I’ve kept this question locked up in my head for approximately 25 years. What’s stopped me asking this question? Why didn’t I bring it up during my hundreds of science lessons at school? Why didn’t I ever ask my parents or friends?

In fact, Einstein did more than just notice what the blind beetle couldn’t see. He was able to imagine it by conjuring up thought experiments. That ability to visualize the unseen has always been the key to creative genius. As Einstein later put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Walter Issacson (NY Times)

I wonder if this is a question that I must answer on my own? Am I forever destined to wrestle with this question until I begin to formulate a theory? Do we all have these types of experiences as a child – and if so perhaps there really is a scientist within everyone of us?

As these thought experiments remind us, creativity is based on imagination. If we hope to inspire kids to love science, we need to do more than drill them in math and memorized formulas. We should stimulate their minds’ eyes as well. Even let them daydream.- Walter Issacson (NY Times)

Read The Light-Beam Rider here.


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Creativity Chitchat: Recognizing a child’s ability to INVENT

“I also am driven by the notion that our intelligence is not measured by our knowledge, but rather in our ability to take knowledge and invent something new.”

– Joy  Paul Guildford, 1958

Joy Guildford is an American Psychologist who in 1958 planted the seed toward the study of Creativity. In a speech to the American Psychological Association, and in reference to the recent launch of the Soviet Satellite Sputnik, he challenged his peers to start thinking about what makes people creative.

“I think of creativity as being something that lies behind behavior; behavior that is imaginative and inventive. Such behavior can be found in clearest form in the lives of certain people – scientists who make new discoveries and construct new theories; artists, designers, writers, and composers; and architects, designers, and builders.”

See Also: Introducing Design-Based Thinking to Young Children

Guildford believed that individuals should show their intelligence by being inventive in some way, and not merely on their ability to memorizing facts and figures. As we look to cultivate creativity in our children, we must take this advice and provide opportunities for our little ones to be inventive.

“It is up to us to teach the child that there are still many areas of life, which problems must be faced and in which creative thinking is needed…”

If you take time to observe your child, you’ll quickly notice how often they apply creative thinking in order to solve everyday problems that manifest in their lives. From fixing toys, or discovering how to reach for the Cookie Jar; to coming up with excuses to delay bedtime, or offering reasons why they shouldn’t take a bath –our children are highly inventive within their world. As parents we must make an effort to recognize when our child is being inventive, and within our home, celebrating it equally to the development of new vocabulary or learning to subtract. As they begin to get older, we must then actively seek out opportunities that challenge them to apply this type of thinking to the real world. Whatever their interests, they should be challenged to, and praised when, they invent something new and useful.

“I also am driven by the notion that our intelligence is not measured by our knowledge, but rather in our ability to take knowledge and invent something new.”

My eldest using items we put in an invention box to make a house on wheels for his toy worm.
My eldest using items we put in an invention box to make a house on wheels for his toy worm.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking is squandered, or in some cases made dormant in educational environments that measure progress on what knowledge has been committed to memory, as opposed to how well that knowledge is applied to a real-world problem.

As parents we can partner in education, by recognizing and celebrating the ways our child likes to invent. For example, my eldest likes to ‘invent’ stories – so we make a point to sit down and let him read his book to us. Simple additions to our home such as an ‘Invention Box’ can help encourage our children to be inventive. Invention boxes can build up over time, and include things like broken toys, boxes, string, and even old power cables, or discarded electrical devices. With some facilitation from the parent, children can be challenged to invent products that solve real-world problems, and as their knowledge for the real world increase, so will their solutions.

As parents we shouldn’t feel the need to master in-depth studies in creativity in order to cultivate creative thinking skills in our children. We simply need to first recognize our child’s ability to INVENT, and then find ways to encourage this further, by knowing what our child likes to invent and then making opportunities for it to happen.

What to know more about Creativity? Try our ‘Parents Guide to Creativity’


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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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