Helping with Homework: Turkeys, Art & Creativity with My Son


Thanksgiving can be a difficult time for a multitude of reasons; family, dinner plans, travel, traffic, and family all contribute to The Holiday Headaches. However, nothing is more challenging than being an oversized turkey in your underwear just trying to hide from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.

This was just the challenge that was leveled from Mrs. Lefebvre to her first grade class, and was sent home as a “family homework” assignment [helping with homework!].   My son, Logan, came home on a Thursday and explained to me that we had to come up with a disguise for his paper cutout of Tom The Turkey to help save him from becoming dinner. He further explained that last year all of the first grade students had turned his or her turkey into SpongeBob or Spiderman, and that he had to come up with an idea to help “hide” his turkey.

SEE ALSO: 3 Question Interview with Science Wiz, Marc Balanda

As we sat down to discuss options, his first idea was to copy the first two ideas that had already been mentioned in the teacher’s homework handout. I challenged him and told him that these ideas have already been taken, and that he would have to come up with his own. He sat for a while and only repeated designs that were discussed in class.

I asked him to think about things that he and I like to do, something that he finds interesting, and told him that he would find his inspiration there (of course it took some time to explain the concept of inspiration!).

Then the light bulb went on…Logan stated, “we are going to make a cowboy costume for Tom!”

Logan began by describing what this costume should look like, and on his artistic command, I cut out a pair of cowboy boots, a vest, and a hat. He watched me spray paint one boot and then took over and finished the rest under careful watch. Using masking tape, we planned where the sky would meet the grass, and again shared in the spray-painting duties.

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Once the background dried, Logan’s inspiration really kicked in:
 He told me that the cowboy would need to be roasting a marshmallow and that we would need to build him a fire. He ran outside to get some sticks and rocks and together we glued them in a circle. He placed the stick in Tom’s hand and ran to get a cotton ball to complete his masterpiece. I was patient as he placed and replaced his rocks, glued his fingers together, and thought about how he could add more. Soon Tom was clothed and looking well disguised.

In my work as an associate principal, I have the privilege of observing some of the most impactful art teachers in the profession. During a recent observation I watched a teacher challenge her students to tell her “What is Art?”


I took a moment to start this conversation with Logan and asked him, to tell me what he thinks art is. He told me that it is “beautiful” and “colorful” and sometimes it is “expensive.” I explained that art sometimes has deeper meaning, and that ordinary things, like a rock, can stand for something else, like the number of kids in your class.   I told him it was like a secret meaning and he gets to be the creator…pretty heavy stuff for a 6 year-old!   Then he jumped up. He told me that we “needed 17 stars, one for each kid in my class and a crescent moon that would watch over all the stars, that would be Mrs. Lefebvre.”

I think the final product is proof that our art homework was a success, but like art well done there was a deeper meaning to this experience.

The project took patience, listening, and finding new ways to communicate with my son. In the end, I’m not sure who inspired whom, but I know I was reminded of some very important lessons that will be helpful in art and life.

  • First – Anyone can be an artist. It does not take a masters’ degree in the arts to create meaning and share ideas.
  • Second – It takes patience to allow your little artist to make a mess, take risks, and test theories (and some acetone to remove the glue from the countertop). It took reflection and creativity on dad’s part to incorporate lessons I have learned from talented teachers to help inspire my son. It took courage to test those lessons on my 6 year-old and hope that he would understand.
  • Third – Being fully present and disconnected from the interruptions of the digital world truly helped bring out the creative process. It allowed me to enjoy each moment with my son as we worked on this “family homework” As a result, he has created a project with his dad that he is overwhelmingly proud of, and is excited to share with his classmates.
  • More importantly, he brought the picture to class on Monday and asked Mrs. Lefebvre when he would get the next “family homework” assignment. I have to admit, I can’t wait to see what “we” can do next!


Article by Dr. Jason Tracy

Jason Tracy is an associate principal at Amity Regional High School.  He has served as a school counselor and conducted research focused in the areas of social-emotional development, self-concept, and school climate.  He spends his free time engaged in fostering the academic, social, and athletic development of his two young sons.

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What is Creativity?

Creativity Chit-Chat: A Parent’s Guide to Creativity

It’s always energizing to be in the company of fellow educators who are passionate about the cultivation of creative thinking skills in the classroom, it’s doubly exciting when most of them are parent’s as well.

On Friday I presented at the New England Association of Gifted and Talented annual conference, on the subject of creative thinking within project-based learning. The title of my presentation was called Project-Based Learning: The Role of the Creative Thinking Advocate, and followed an article I wrote on the blog Keep Learning. Most of the conversations centered on Creativity and how we can cultivate these skills in education. As many of the attendees were parents, the conversations naturally expanded to ways we can develop these skills at home as well, and more importantly the need to share our understanding of Creative Thinking skills. Inspired I updated the page  ‘What is Creativity? A Parent’s Guide, and shared it on Facebook. What is Creativity? A Parent’s Guide.

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Creativity Chit-Chat: Enjoying ‘Playtime’ with my boy (Imaginative Play)

I’ve been trying to sort through my thousands of photos on my Mac computer. I can’t wait for someone to produce an application that removes all the duplicates, and automatically places them in folders based on your child’s age, the season, and location. One of the images of Lucas from last winter was taken on a walk around our complex – I remember it lasted hours as we battled the elements, climbed up steep mountains, and transported to different dimensions (though there was always some connection to Frozen). I’ve had many similar experiences, a bike ride in Cape Code that turned into an adventure with a Gruffalo, fairies, a magical wood, dinosaur bones, and a scary forest. Another involved a giant Tsunami that we just survived on a beach in Italy.

See Also: My Magical Garden: Where were your Imaginary Worlds?

Giving up to your child’s imagination is so easy when you let go of your surroundings. You can visit magical places, and rekindle childhood connections. Sadly, I know this won’t last, and already I feel some of our recent walks are becoming more fact-based and centered on real-world questions. But, joining in with the imaginative play, not only encourages creative thinking, it makes for some blissful memories of ‘playtime’ with our children.

Lucas finally reaches the top of a mountain, or rather volcano covered in Snow - I can't remember!
Lucas finally reaches the top of a mountain, or rather volcano covered in Snow – I can’t remember!


Ah yes - Lucas's obsession with Mermaids. Here he had just washed up on a beach and was about to grow legs.
Ah yes – Lucas’s obsession with Mermaids. Here he had just washed up on a beach and was about to grow legs.


IMG_4532-1 (1)
Getting ready for our first bike ride. Little did we know that we were embarking on an adventure to a magical wood full of fairies and gruffalo.


Moments after the giant wave ripped us apart.
Moments after the giant wave capsized our boat, and ripped us apart, while enjoying the sun on a beach in Italy.

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You can also view the entire film for free by simply commenting on one of our articles. Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

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How About More Community-Wide Creative Activities!


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

Be original

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!


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