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What’s the Secret to Creativity? Simple Strategies to Raise Creative Children

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

How Parents Can Raise Creative Thinkers in the Face of Elementary and Middle School Social Pressures

It’s proven through government studies that creativity is a valuable asset best developed through the arts. Creativity is known as the fundamental driver of innovation. Art education develops the critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities necessary to create our future innovators. However, it can be quite difficult for parents to retain the adventurous free spirit of early childhood in the face of elementary and middle school social pressures. How can parents raise the next generation of creative thinkers?

Unstructured artwork is characteristic of pre-school and kindergarten age children. They draw stick figures and love to splatter paint with fingers onto huge sheets of paper. Parents enjoy the self-expressive free nature found in their child’s art. Exploration and risk-taking are encouraged, even if the kitchen floor is a disaster and there are two loads of laundry afterwards.

By third grade it’s clear something has changed. Children become much more cautious with their artwork. Looking at class presentations shows heightened conformity and a great degree of similarity across student artwork. Many seem too perfect to be a typical third-grader’s. Children seem a bit embarrassed by their work, and more concerned with approval than enjoyment of the process. Unless parents and teachers step in, children will continue to lose their inborn creative spark.

So what can parents do to nurture creativity into adulthood? Here are four strategies:

  •     Children’s physical ability to color inside the lines is seen as a developmental milestone, thus teaching at an early age that creativity has strict rules and expectations. Relying on coloring books leads to the same conformity. Instead of using structured materials such as coloring books, parents should try sketchbooks to help children find their own source of inspiration and ways to communicate through art.
  •     Peer pressure can influence a child’s artwork the same way it controls what clothes a child wears to school. Our society places high value on creativity, yet children instinctively feel that artwork has to be pretty to be praised. Parents need to be aware of their child’s need for social acceptance, even in art class. Asking about projects can give insight into the amount of peer pressure involved. Try “How is your work different from others in class? Or the same? What do you like / not like about your artwork? What would you do differently next time?” Let you child know that being an individual is important, and that you value an ability to be thinking independently.
  •     School administrators face pressure to keep art as part of the school day in the face of rising budget cuts. However, a comprehensive standards-based art curriculum isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs or painting with acrylics. A true study of the visual arts is cross-curricular, uniquely connecting the “core” course of math, history, language arts and science. As a parent, don’t let art get pushed aside as being a “special”. If your child has art class in school or as part of an afterschool program, find out just what topics are being explored. It’s not just about what they have made in class, it’s about learning to ask questions and explore the relationship between subjects. If you want children with critical thinking skills and better grades, it’s proven that you should start with art.
  •     Art needs to stay fun. It develops self-expression that is free from “right and wrong” test-driven coursework. Art explores the basis of human knowledge about our world and is the best way for children to discover their unique place in it. So keep it fun by taking trips to museums, talking about movies or picture books – really anything visual that creates an emotional response, good or bad. Then think, discuss, and ask “Why?” “What did it mean to you?” “Would you change it?” Not only will you have more quality time with your family, you’ll also be developing critical thinking skills.

Teaching children to ask questions is essential towards their creative development. Art should be a place where children can learn, explore and create without right or wrong answers. By nurturing creativity we develop future innovators. So don’t be afraid to teach children to color outside the lines

Do All Children Need Art Education? Test Your Creativity IQ To Find Out

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Parents are faced with a dizzying amount of information on what, exactly, children should be learning in school or after school. They’ve been told “Creativity is Essential for 21st Century Skills”. So what exactly are those skills any why are they necessary?

Here’s a short quiz – it’s easy, True or False?

Creativity is a vitally important skill, but difficult to measure.

Question: Art is just for kids who like to draw. Unless a ‘gifted’ child likes to spend time doodling, sketching or drawing there’s no reason to spend valuable educational hours on a visual arts curriculum.
Answer: False. It has been proven through government studies that art education measurably increases a child’s academic achievement. According to the PCAH Turnaround: Arts Initiative, “Research shows that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPAs and SAT scores and show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12. They are also more likely to be engaged and cooperative with teachers and peers and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas.” What parent doesn’t want those benefits?

 

Question: A course of study in the Visual Arts will only benefit that small number of children who have ‘natural talent’ in hands-on artwork.
Answer: False. Art class isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs. A comprehensive, standards based art curriculum teaches the 16 elements and principles – those like line, shape, color, and emphasis – that teach children to effectively communicate in our overwhelmingly visual world.
It’s well known that there’s a connection between the Arts and creativity. It’s also known that a Visual Arts training enhances a skill known as ‘visualization’. Not coincidentally, those both contain the word ‘visual’. So what exactly is visualization, and why is it such an important part of children’s education?

Visualization can be explained with one simple question:
What did you eat for breakfast?
Note: This one isn’t true or false.

Answering this question defines visualization. First, the brain goes back in time and recalls an image – in this case it’s (probably) food – then labels it with words for the answer. That’s it. The ability of the mind to creates a picture to solve a problem or answer a question. Visualization skills are innate, yet children tend to lose them during the transition to adulthood. As with creativity, visualization skills need to be developed and encouraged in early childhood education so that they are not lost.

The ability for the brain to create complex images to solve problems is the key to creativity and innovation. Einstein didn’t change scientific thinking about the nature of the universe just because he was good with numbers. Rather, he often spoke about how he ‘was able to see’ the nature of matter and complex systems in motion, then follow with mathematical proofs. Clearly, visualization is a necessary if students are to study even high school level science and mathematics. However, at a basic level knowledge is not just a static standardized test. All of those building blocks start moving in real time. That’s where visualization is an essential skill. Children can know the names of the planets, yet without visualization skills there’s no understanding beyond rote memorization.

The last questions are actually disguised answers.
What does this have to do with the Visual Arts? well, Art is a visual language. If you teach children to decode art, they can understand why a Coke commercial will make them want to drink Coke.
Why start early? Why before Middle School?
Parents of teenagers know that children are most energetic and free thinking in Elementary School. By Middle School conformity sets in, and from that to teenage years parents can only hope they’ve distilled enough foundation to weather the storm. In sum, it’s never too late, but it’s always best to start early.

“The Balancing Act” on Lifetime to Feature Madcap Logic’s Unique Educational Arts Program ‘Creativity Express Online’

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012


“Madcap Logic is thrilled to partner with BrandStar Entertainment’s TV popular morning show “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime in their effort to address the complex educational needs of today’s students.”

BrandStar Entertainment

“Creativity Express Brings Art Into The Classroom Tuesday January 17th, 2012: Lifetime Television 7:00-8 AM EST. & PST., 6:00-7AM CST

PRLog (Press Release)Jan 09, 2012
(Pompano Beach, FL) Madcap Logic, LLC – creators of Creativity Express, a fun an innovative arts educational program, recently completed filming for BrandStar Entertainment’s hit morning show, The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television.

“Madcap Logic is thrilled to partner with BrandStar Entertainment’s TV show The Balancing Act on Lifetime in their effort to address the complex educational needs of today’s students. In today’s challenging environment we applaud the efforts of The Balancing Act on Lifetime to provide parents and educators with essential resources required for lifelong academic success,” says special guest, Elise Ruiz-Ramon from Madcap Logic.

The segment which also features Robert Monson, President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, will air this month as part of The Balancing Act’s Parent Teacher Corner series on Lifetime Television.  In the upcoming segment, they’ll discuss the importance of including art lessons in your child’s curriculum as part of the learning experience.

In this edition of the Parent Teacher Corner on The Balancing Act on Lifetime, viewers will learn that with so many schools cutting their budgets, educators are looking on-line to find the types of tools that teach effectively and are cost efficient. “Arts education enables children to draw from their experiences to create meaning that will enhance their learning,” says Robert.  “Research tells us that the arts have a tremendously positive impact on teaching and learning, especially in discovering talents, stimulating academic interests, and awakening an awareness of the vast possibilities of life.”

Children with art education do better across the board.  “Our Creativity Express curriculum reaches some children who would otherwise be left behind,” Elise adds.  “An arts education also helps students develop motivation for higher academic achievement, leading them to become lifelong learners.”

Make sure to watch BrandStar Entertainment’s special Parent Teacher Corner edition of The Balancing Act to discover how a properly applied art education may lead to academic improvement, as well as develop more intuitive thinking and developing creativity and self esteem.

About “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television
The Balancing Act TV show airs daily on Lifetime Television at 7:00am (ET/PT).  The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television is America’s premier morning show that’s about women, for women and trusted by women.

About BrandStar Entertainment
BrandStar Entertainment is well known for their cutting edge content driven women’s programming, including “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television.  The Balancing Act TV show inspires and empowers women with entertaining and educational segments, placing them in the best position to achieve success in every aspect of their lives.

# # #

O2 Media’s parent company, BrandStar Entertainment, producers of The Balancing Act show on Lifetime TV, have proven themselves as pioneers in the Branded Entertainment industry bringing Social Media to TV with the vision to Engage, Entertain and Educate.

Madcap Logic Moves to Florida

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Leaving Colorado in late 2010, Madcap Logic, LLC has officially relocated to Florida. Our move is accompanied by a change in ownership and refocusing of Madcap Logic’s business plan.

“Our flagship sixteen lesson Creativity Express curriculum has been quite successful.” says the new CEO and Owner, Elise Ruiz-Ramon. “However, the CD-ROM delivery has caused significant frustrations from our customers – the operating systems are changing so rapidly that compatibility has become serious issue. We are at the mercy of Microsoft and Apple, and whatever upgrades or patches they may choose to place on any given computer at any time. Our Creativity Express Online product is free from those potential bugs, and is always on for any number of users from any web browser. The internet delivery of curriculum content is now widely accepted by home and traditional school students. Creativity Express Online is specifically designed to meet the needs of teachers and students alike, increasing productivity and creatively engaging the minds of children.”

The new CEO will begin by upgrading essential services within the Teacher Account Center, then improving the store front for greater product choices, pricing transparency and ease of ordering.

“We expect next year to be challenging for teachers and schools given the upcoming budget cuts,'” says Mrs. Ruiz-Ramon, “and we need to be able to provide a viable solution for art education to remain a core component of elementary curriculum.”

Newsweek Reports on the "Creativity Crisis" in America

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Affecting a generation of Americans, both children and adults,
“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong – and how we can fix it.”

If you have school-age children this comes as no surprise. Children are spending more time in front of televisions and computers, and spending days in school being tested rather that taught. The long term effects are now being felt by a society that needs innovation more than ever to solve long-term problems.

What can you do? Read the article, learn, and reach out to the schools and children around you. Stay involved, and use books instead of television. Force your children outside (weather permitting) without electronics. Let them fail so that they understand how to creatively find solutions on their own. Encourage individuality.

Furnace recommends picking up a paintbrush and finding out where your imagination can take you! It’s a great way to spend a summer day. Just try to find a brush your own size…

Time4Learning Provides Creativity Express Art Curriculum to its Members

Monday, July 12th, 2010
Time4Learning Provides Creativity Express Art Curriculum to its Members

Durango, CO – Representatives from Madcap Logic LLC announced today that Time4Learning.com is bundling the Creativity Express online art curriculum with its existing curricula to its Time4Learning members.

Time4Learning.com has licensed Creativity Express web-based art program to add to the educational services that Time4Learning.com provides to its thousands of members. The animated online program teaches art as well as art appreciation and art history. Students learn the principles and history of art through interactive lessons on topics such as line, form and color, using real examples from art history to illustrate each concept. The sixteen-lesson program is available to Time4Learning subscribing members. Creativity Express features a built-in reward system as each lesson concludes with a quiz designed to assess the students’ understanding of the material presented: the higher the students’ scores, the more artist cards and puzzle pieces they collect.

Time4Learning parents and students who have used the art program quickly nicknamed it “Time 4 Art.” They are enthusiastic about having an art course included in the Time4Learning academic curriculum and are thrilled by the quality of the content and delivery of the material. “My kids loved the art so much that they work on the program well beyond their homeschool time, spending their free time on it,” reported one parent. Homeschoolers in particular appreciate the structure the program provides to learning about and creating art. “I am so impressed! Our kids adored being taught about art in such an educationally fun and guided way, rather than our usual laissez-faire approach to homeschool art,” reviewed another parent.

About Time4Learning: Time4Learning is a leading online learning system that offers a preschool through eighth grade curriculum for homeschool, afterschool, and summer use in language arts, math, science and social studies. The Time4Learning online educational offering also includes Time4Writing.com, online writing courses for K-12. Time4Learning was selected as one of the “Top 100 Educational Websites” in both 2009 and 2010 by Homeschool.com and received a BESSIE Award after being named the #1 “Multi-Subject Website” by the ComputED Gazette in 2010. Time4Learning is a certified “Green Business” by the Uniform Standard for Green Business Certification 2009.

Kids on Computers : When to Start?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

 

During Randy Parker’s Seattle radio interview, the issue of age appropriateness came up.

Yes, we hear stories of eighty-year-olds having a grand old time with Creativity Express, but what about on the other end?  When is a child ready to play with the program?

This can be puzzling. The animated software program suggests ages 7-97. Dr. Toy, which has recognized Creativity Express as one of this year’s “Top 10 Creative Products” suggests 6-12. (Thanks also to Homeschool Blog for an award).

Really, when can kids get the most value out of Creativity Express and other programs? If we say Let’s Start With Art, when do we start?

We probably all know a family (or three!) that are all over tech. The parents are engineers or web developers. The kids are writing code by eight. They design games for each other for fun. But what about the rest of us?

Well know that you are probably not the first to ask. Daniel D. Shade wrote his oft-quoted piece, Developmentally Appropriate Software back in 1991. Some of us weren’t even “launched” then. He developed, with Dr. Susan Haugland, a criteria scale, that measures the value of software programs for kids.

Some of the criteria are obvious.

* Does the software offer clear instructions?
* Age appropriate in terms of realistic concepts?
* Appropriate methods?
* Expanding complexity?  “low entry, high ceiling.”

He also writes, “Please do not think, however, that we have reached the pinnacle of early childhood computer applications. The majority of software produced for early childhood is still drill-and-practice, software improvements continue to center on graphics and sound rather than content.”

So, as we have heard before, in other contexts, content is key. What are kids being asked to do?  Chase things around to groovy sounds and lights? Or is there value in the program?  Frustration or mastery?

Between the ages of 1 and 2, cause and effect makes sense to a child. They also start getting computer basics around now. Be gentle with the keyboard. Don’t sit on it. Don’t throw it. There are games that offer magic by simply touching a key. Since this age group can’t recognize letters, keyboarding is limited to forward and back arrows. Full-on assistance please.
There are programs like Baby Smash that don’t even ask for fingers. My boys loved this one.

At around 3 or 4, your child will start showing readiness for “real” software. Simple stories. Puzzles. No complicated scenarios. No timed games. They need to work at their own pace.
They also still need a helper, since few children are reading at this age. A parent or teacher on hand is a good way to learn.

There is software that supports learning numbers, colors, shapes, letters. It’s also a good age for music and artistic software. Make sure there is a  balance between structured learning, right/wrong stuff, and open play.
It’s all good.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, when used appropriately, technology can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities. Computers are compelling. Colors. Sounds. Little people see us big ones working on computers, they want to do that too. (They want cel phones too, but that’s another story).

The right software programs engage them in creative play, problem solving, some sort of conversation. And control! How cool for them to control pacing. Repeat games as often as they want.

Again! again! again! heard that before?

NAEYC also recommends, “Just as parents continue to read to children who can read themselves, parents and teachers should both participate with children in computer activities and encourage children to use computers on their own and with peers.”

So they are on their own, but they aren’t. Be with them to offer help, encouragement, praise.

In terms of choice, Dr. Hoagland offers these sage words of advice.
“The instructions should be clear and easy to understand and the software should provide the kids with visual prompts and/or a help option they can refer to when needed, minimizing adult supervision. Software should contain no violent objects, characters or activities, and should include positive social values, such as cooperating, sharing, communicating and expressing feelings.   Advertisement is visibly reduced and the children are exposed to concrete representations of objects, sounds and settings that belong to the real world, since children tend to believe without much questioning that what they see and hear is true.”

And there will be merchandise targeting the little people.
There are scaled-down versions of mice that claim to work from ages 2-10.
Or why not just shoot for the whole FunKey Board Fun Mouse Bundle.
And what about a pre-school computer desk, “comfortably fits a child from 2 to 6.” But maybe we don’t need to shell out the big bucks to create our Mini Me.

Dr. Hoagland sums up by saying ” in their early ages, children need to engage in activities that require the use of their hands, hearts, bodies and minds.”

So true. Let’s not make the computer, like the TV, in Stephen Spielberg’s assessment, “the third parent.”

Also, don’t forget to introduce healthy computing habits.

* Posture (Did we all just straighten up?)
* Seat comfort.
* Take breaks to rest the body and eyes.
* No food or drinks within dangerous proximity.
* Clean screen. Just like grownups.

Also, realize that kids will be online more as they age. But don’t worry. That’s a good thing. According to a recent Macarthur Foundation study, it turns out that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online. They are hanging out, but they are also learning. So that’s good, right?

It’s what we do.

So there is no right time to start with art. Just let the little bots play, explore, and see what happens. Years from now, who knows what they will be doing with computers?

But if we help them now, they will help us later, when the latest technology confounds us oldsters.

How Artists See

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Colleen Carroll knows the value of visual literacy. The mother of three girls and an educator found herself creating the art book that didn’t exist. Actually a series of them.

How Artists See, a popular 12-volume series of art books, was written and designed to teach children about art. But not at all like the boring dusty volumes filled with dates and facts.  Each of these simple books take children through a familiar subject, animals, heroes, feelings, weather, etc. Young readers are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and responses, prompted by everything from cave paintings to contemporary art. The open-ended questions in the book stress individuality, and encourage one’s own. Children relate to various artists, empathize with their feelings, culture, tools, times.  Through this lens, they see how the work came to be.

Carroll, who started college as a photography major, soon went on to Art History.  She eventually taught sixth-graders in Southern California, and found no visual arts instruction (or music, dance, and drama). That led her to develop an art appreciation curriculum that dovetailed with the world cultures social studies curriculum. The kids loved it.

 But how did all this start?

“One of my earliest memories of art is looking through a monograph on the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci. The book was a tome: it was absolutely huge and must have weighed 20 pounds. Every so often my father would hoist it off the shelf and let me flip through the pages. While I was too young to read the text, the plates captivated and mesmerized me. The power of the artwork spoke to me and touched my spirit. Even though I didn’t know who made the beautiful pictures, somewhere deep down I knew I was communicating with a genius.”

By creating the series Carroll makes Da Vinci, and other geniuses accessible to the young. As an art educator, Carroll knows firsthand, the importance of the arts.

“Great art is a powerful visual tool that stretches across many barriers: language, class, race, and literacy, to name a few particularly wide ones. Exposing young children to art sparks the imagination, and when shared with a parent, teacher, caregiver or even a peer, promotes dialogue, vocabulary growth, and critical thinking. Introducing young children to art from a broad range of cultures and time periods builds background knowledge and teaches them that there is a bigger world beyond the one that they know. Interacting with art can help young children grasp abstract concepts, such as hope, justice, and courage. In an increasingly visual world, early experiences with looking and talking about art build visual literacy and analytical skills: skills that are becoming more and more important to possess.”

 Sharing art with children is so simple, yet rich. Carroll lives her life like she teaches it.

“When I was completing the research for my new book series, How Artists See, Jr., the time had come to choose the final images for the volume which looks at dogs in art. I had already done the first cut, but was having difficulty selecting from the fifty or so images left on my list. My kindergarten daughter happened to be home from school with a tummy ache, so I asked her to help me. Spreading the prints out on the living room floor I said, ‘Honey, come on down here and pick out your favorite pictures.’ Within minutes she had the prints in a neat stack, her favorites at the top and least favorites at the bottom. Without prompting, she began to tell me why she liked some dogs better than others, and what certain ones looked like to her (critical thinking and evaluation, expressive language). I share this anecdote to illustrate how fun, educational, and easy it is to share art with young children. Their innate curiosity and imagination, paired with rich imagery is, indeed, a potent learning tonic.”

Lucky girls, Carroll’s three.

 “That Leonardo book? It’s now on my bookshelf within arm’s reach of my own children.”

Maybe this holiday is a good time to gift your own family with a special art book. Visit the art section of a local bookstore and let your children explore. See what they find interesting. You might just be surprised.

Great Minds….

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The Information Age has brought us to an amazing place where we can be anywhere, anytime, with anyone.  Talking, recording, viewing anything. Heady stuff, but what kind of head? According to Daniel Pink, a whole lot of “left brain” got us here, but we need to shift towards “right brain”.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, he outlines a world where right-brain qualities rule.
-inventiveness
-empathy
-meaning

This new model applies to education, careers, life.
In Pink’s view, students and employees are operating within a dated model of needing to please authority figures. External validation mode. From early ages, we have all been conditioned to come up with correct answers, leading to reward. We blindly work hard for a gold star, high grades, a bigger desk, a corner office.  But there is little room for creativity within this model. In fact, in his experience, it can lead to burn out, lack of motivation, worse.

He had been a successful political speechwriter, but found that he somehow lacked motivation. And as he travels around the world conducting interviews and speaking engagements, he spreads the word of self fulfillment through doing what you enjoy. Sound familiar? In my earlier post, Sir Ken Robinson also outlines the many ways the human brain can learn and operate. There is no one right way of learning, teaching, thinking. The key, we seem to be hearing, is to find your own unique self. And embrace it. And as we teach our children, we should allow them to find it as well. Early and often.

In all phases of life, everyone should be encouraged to blossom and thrive. The responsibility lies with the teachers, the employers and of course, the self.

Pink urges us to find out what we enjoy doing. Forget external rewards. “Do what you do because you like it.”

Seek fun. Interesting. Challenging. Meaningful.

Clip and save this recipe for success.

Thanks to Daniel Pink for the image.

Art Smart

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

One thing on everyone’s minds these days is the role of arts, and children, and are they getting enough. Or in the crunch to meet standards, do we just focus on the old R and R (reading/’rithmetic). Which would be a shame. Research tells us that children exposed early, and often to the arts fare better in tests, careers and life. But sometimes we see arts getting booted pretty low on the priority list. Or off the list.

Some people understand the need for a meaningful arts education.

  • Neuroscientists get it. Training in the arts improves cognition.
  • Teachers get it. Students who participate in the arts have higher test scores and lower drop-out rates.
  • Corporate leaders get it. Terry Semel, past chairman of Warner Bros., said, “Art is central to a civilized society. Kids who create don’t destroy.”

Thinker/writer, Daniel Pink notes that we are at the end of a binary-only thinking era. Students who can think imaginatively, creatively, or “outside the box” will become the most attractive workers for global corporations. Arts education prepares young minds for non-linear thinking.

As the oft-quoted Elizabeth Murfee writes in her 1995, Making a Case for Culture, “Drawing helps writing. Song and poetry make facts memorable. Drama makes history more vivid and real. Creative movement makes processes understandable.”

Socially, arts have proven to be an effective outreach tool to engage youth. Self esteem, cooperation, resilience improves when students have been exposed to the arts.
And lastly, what of the joy and wonder the arts offer the mind and spirit? Arts play a key role in the life of a child.

With thanks for a great image to Nicole Marti

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