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Establish a Culture of Excitement at the Start of School

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

 

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Get your creativity on this Halloween

This Web site is a discussion on how we might nurture and cultivate creative thinking at home. Naturally this discussion evolves around our children and ways we can engage the characteristics most often associated with creativity, such as the imagination, curiosity, a tolerance for ambiguity, originality, and the ability to produce and consider many alternatives.

However, lets change things up a little and talk about how we as parents might better engage our own creativity? It’s probably most associated with problem-solving, coming up with new strategies to get your three-year old to sleep through the night, or how you might balance family life over a professional deadline. These are all great conversations, but I’m writing to promote one thing today – make a costume for Halloween!

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that most Halloween costumes have been purchased, and not made. This time of year they’re on sale at the likes of Costco, Target, Wallmart, and even Pottery Barn. There’s great deals to be had online, and unique costumes to be bought at Web sites like Esty and eBay. It’s easier to buy, it’s harder to make! But buying is not as creative, and making.

Last year my son wanted to be a plane, it was a great problem to have and challenged our creativity to the max. We had one weekend to come up with an idea on how we can turn our son into a flying machine. I confess my wife took the lead and searched out designs online, while I gathered boxes. The outcome can be seen in the picture above. The costume was a huge hit among our neighbors and I was most proud of my wife’s creative accomplishments.

Time is a massive factor when it comes to making a costume and I recognize it just isn’t always possible, but even if you go down the purchased route, try to avoid the purchase of a complete costume and instead try and buy it pieces, or make accessories that take it to the next level.

What’s more, the making of a costume is a great family activity to engage the imagination. It goes beyond artwork and into genuine problem-solving. For example, this year my boy wants to be a dragon skeleton that breaths fire. My wife is working on getting him to change his mind, but I already have a prototype of a head, and now need to problem-solve how we can get the head to breath fire.

If it’s too late and you’ve purchased your costume, be sure to at least make note of the homemade costumes on display that night, and maybe snap and share a few pictures to use as inspiration for next year.

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Nurturing Creativity in our Kids

DADS_FOR_CREATIVITY: Sunglasses case
DADS_FOR_CREATIVITY: The sunglasses case my daughter designed so that I never lose my glasses again.

Nurturing creativity in our kids can take place at every turn in the road as they grow older. Big projects can be fun – but it’s in the everyday solution to simple things that also allows a kid’s imagination to soar. By involving our kids in problem solving – we can equip them with unique
and creative skill-sets that may allow them to discover unique solutions to the most mundane or complex problems. And with these creative skills as a foundation – who knows what they will think up next?

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I’m always losing my sunglasses case. Dark black case. Blends in everywhere. Our three rescue dogs waited impatiently in the Landcrusier for the trip to the dog park to begin as my wife, my nine-year old daughter Natalie and I all searched for my sunglasses case. I complained non-stop until I finally found the dark case camouflaged on top of a dark leather book. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d ever have to hunt for them. As I took my sunglasses out of their dark case, I caught a glimpse of my daughter watching me. “What would you do so I wouldn’t lose them? I asked her. Natalie took the case and went into her room. A few minutes later she emerged and handed me a customized glass case that would stand out almost anywhere:

 


 

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Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance. is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. To gain FREE access, simply comment below and we’ll follow up with a link and password.

 

 

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