Imagine you are in third grade and you have been invited to participate in a creativity pilot project after school. When you come into the classroom, the teacher allows students to sit where they want and they are read a short story. After the reading, the teacher hands the students in the class a piece of paper and tells them they have five minutes to think of as many uses for a chair as they can. Imagine what the average response to this question would be?
In Nancy Musgrave’s creativity pilot project there were looks of complete and utter disbelief on the faces of the young children. Many of the children involved had never been asked to do anything like this before and they had no idea how to answer the question. One child asked, “How many responses do we have to give you?” Another child responded, “What exactly are you looking for?” Another child just sat and stared into space. Unfortunately, these students, it appeared, had lost, at least to some degree, the ability to think creatively.
Mrs. Musgrave, a Gifted and Talented Specialist at JES, is completing a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on creatively gifted. Earlier in the school year, she determined that many of the students at JES exhibited traits of creative giftedness, but there was something missing.
“I strongly believe that everyone can improve their creativity and that we, as a nation, need to invest in divergent thinking skills,” Musgrave said. “European countries, India, and Japan are teaching their students from early ages to foster their creativity and build in daily time to train their students how to think in these ways. “
Musgrave asked her Principal Lori Allison and Gina Peddy, Carroll ISD’s Gifted and Talented/Advanced Academics Coordinator, if she could implement a creativity pilot project to test her theory that creativity could be improved if students were given opportunities to think creatively. For three months, Musgrave had three different sessions with three different groups of students participating in the study. These students were asked to stay after school for one hour. During this time, Musgrave allowed students to use a variety of techniques to strength their ability to think creatively. The teacher believes strongly that there is more than one “right” answer and that if society can learn to think in varied, complex ways, then our country will reap the benefits.
“Minds that are trained and enriched in this manner are those who can think and create the next great invention, masterpiece, or cultural work,” Musgrave added.
On the first day of the pilot, students were asked to think of objects that fit into the following categories: red, slippery, round. Students were given five minutes to write their responses. At first, students would only respond with one or two word answers; however, as the study continued and the students began to think “outside of the box” the students began to fill the page with a variety of responses. Students were evaluated using their creativity in the following components: fluency, flexibility, originality, elaboration, visualization, transformation, intuition, and synthesis.
So, what is the definition of creativity? There are many definitions, but most theorists agree that one must express some novel thought, performance, or piece that actually has been completed to fruition. In other words, it is not enough to just brainstorm ideas all day; one must produce something out of the creative thought. Creativity judged by others as being creative or not may vary greatly across culture, much as giftedness is defined definitely by cultures as to what attributes are prized most within that society. If one could look in the minds of creative geniuses, one might see a person who is: playful, inquisitive, willing to take risks, desires to see things differently, wonders, is curious, questions, desires to interrelate, tolerates ambiguity, desires to learn, and has a willingness to experiment and try new things.
Can creativity be taught? Some would say yes while others would say no. Mrs. Musgrave’s pilot project seems to show evidence that with practice, the creative component within each child can be enhanced.