Be The Revolution!

I just read the Genius of Play’s report on “Fostering innovation and Creativity through Play,” cohosted with the Smithsonian Lemelson Center at the National Museum of American History, April 25, 2018.

I love the questions, ideas, hopes, and dreams they express in their event press release, and their event report.

Their plan was to “explore how play serves as a catalyst for creativity and innovation.” What a great plan! Remarkably, they didn’t just explore on their own, for their own information. They invited experts (including me!)  to collaborate with them, and hosted a free event to share our thoughts. They even extended invitations to members of Congress, congressional staff, and staff at the Department of Education.

If you get a chance, read the report  and check out the Genius of Play website. Until then, I hope you are inspired by our definitions of play, and the conclusion to the Genius of Play report.

“What is play?”

“Play is joy – doing things that you love to do. And I think play changes over the periods of your lifetime. I also would say for young children, play is the work in how they live their lives.” (Jeri Robinson, Boston Children’s Museum)

“If it makes you happy … It can’t be anything but play.” (James McLurkin, Google)

“Play is a way of interacting with the world that is both fun and powerful. What makes play powerful is it allows our brains to be open and to explore possibility, entertain new ideas, learn and take risks, and learn that failing isn’t the end, but it’s really the beginning to start a new game, stronger and smarter.” (Molly James, Kent Place School)

“Play is anything that we see as open-ended and unconstrained in the hands of a child. And the tools can be anything: they could be toys; they could be robots; they could be books; they could be nothing; they could be out in the garden, but that’s all play.” (Vikas Gupta, Wonder Workshop)

Genius of Play Report Conclusion:

“The connection between play and invention is real but in order to see a correlation, children need to be allowed to flex their creativity through play. By bringing more play to the school curriculum, giving parents the confidence to play with their children, and helping our society understand and value the benefits of play, we can help children develop the qualities they need to become the next generation of inventors.”

Good stuff, right? It was an incredible evening, and the ability to reflect a bit more about it through the report is pretty awesome.

I’m not sure if the members of Congress, congressional staff, or staff at the Department of Education attended. At first that bothered me. But, now, not so much, because I think the most important people made it to the event.

Parents, educators, toy inventors, and others invested in creativity, innovation, and learning, filled the room. We are the people in the classrooms, museums, after school programs, and homes. In some ways it’s most important for us to hear the ideas, read the reports, and believe in the power and purpose of play and creativity in learning and innovation.

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I read a recent Ron Clark tweet which stated “As we start a new school year, I hope every teacher will take a moment to reimagine what education can and should be for every child. Be magical! Make possibilities a reality! #betherevolution”

I agree, let’s be the revolution our kids, and our world, need and deserve!  Let’s make play, creativity, joy, inventiveness, and innovation possible. We can do it. We can make them a reality in our learning spaces. We can give our students the opportunity to “flex their creativity in play.” We can help others experience and understand the value of play — for all of us.

Let’s stand in our power. Let’s be the magical creatures we are. Let’s be the revolution!

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A link to the report can be found on the Genius of Play website, along with a ton of great information and resources. Or, if you prefer, you can download a pdf of the report – Raising a Generation of Inventors: How Play Fosters Creativity and Innovative Thinking in Children.   

 

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When the Smithsonian Invites …

You say “GET OUT OF TOWN!!” Then, you accept!

I have been meaning to blog about this for quite some time, but as I began to investigate the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation  I kept finding new things that made me go “WOW!” and kept me from blogging.

If you’ve never given their website a look, you really should. They’ve got some awesome thinking and resources.

Look at some of the things they believe, and attempt to live:

“In Spark!Lab, we believe everyone is inventive, and hope that our visitors continue to create and innovate long after they’ve outgrown us.”

I LOVE this. Even though I’ve read it several times, it still makes me shake my head. That’s exactly what I think and hope about my Kindergartners. They’re all creative, inventive, and fantabulous! My hope and intent is that they experience, learn, embrace, and live those truths, with me, and long after they’ve left me!

Another post said “Lemelson team members pride ourselves on ‘living the mission’ as creative problem solvers.” They tell the story of  trying to rescue a lost  phone, and document the process at the same time.

I laughed out loud as I read this story. This is my life as a Kindergarten teacher. Always trying to work with my girls to figure out ways to make things possible — all the while doing my best to snap photos.

And, as I think about it, this is my Kindergartners life too! They are living the mission as creative problem solvers as well! The other day I discovered two girls — bottoms up in the air, faces on the ground, arms reaching under a block cabinet — all the while talking furiously with one another. What was going on, you ask?

Someone had washed a yogurt container, and when they placed it in the ‘use for making’ basket, the container fell behind the cabinet.  The girls could squeeze their arms under the cabinet, but they couldn’t reach the bottle. The flurry of conversation was about the blocks and other items they were trying out as tools to retrieve the container.

To add to their challenge, our classroom has art projects taped to the floor and the edge of the closest art project is about 18 inches from the edge of the block cabinet.

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The block cabinet is on wheels, and a visiting teacher volunteered to move it. The girls rejected this simple solution because they didn’t want to risk harming the art project. It was fantabulous to watch their intentness, inventiveness, and collaboration as they worked to retrieve the container.

Then there is the Lemelson Center strategic plan .

(This is just a small portion of their plan. I’ve put their thoughts in bullets form to make them easier to discuss here.)

  • Value creativity and embrace the potential rewards of risk-taking.
  • Inform and delight audiences and convey the enthusiasm and joy that are integral to the invention process
  • Encourage visitors to participate and see themselves as inventive
  • Push the limits of exhibition design to advance visitors’ curiosity and active learning
  • Our work has the potential to inspire millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide to view themselves as having inventive capacity and to build the skills and confidence needed to overcome barriers to innovation.

At the risk of repeating myself, I love these ideas, and they are a large part of my strategic plan as well. Perhaps it seems odd that a Kindergarten teacher would have some of the same strategic plans, hopes, visions, dreams, and goals, as the center of a major organization. But, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and seems to me, should be true of every educator.

Educators do remarkable work, with remarkable people — colleagues, admins, parents, and students. These constituents have limitless potential for imagining, thinking, creating, making, and impacting the world for good. Our work — informed and driven by our plans, hopes, visions and dreams — holds the possibility for profound and far-reaching impact. What we do influences those we  interact with each day. This in turn influences every individual and problem they encounter, now, and in the future.

I’d love to tweak their ideas — making them more mine — and create a canvas of some sort for my learning space.

  • Value creativity.
  • Welcome cognitive and creative risk-taking.
  • Be open to possibility.
  • Teach for delight.
  • Nothing without enthusiasm and joy.
  • Embrace and encourage curiosity.
  • Enable active learning.
  • Live the profoundness inherent in teaching and learning.
  • Believe in the incredible power and potential of my learners.

If I do actually make a canvas, I’ll be sure to share. Until then be inspired, and embrace the profound awesomeness that is you, your work, and those around you!

 

Thomas Edison and Kindergartners

They are more alike than you might think at first glance!

According to the Edison Innovation Foundation, Thomas Edison once said:

“I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Given the chance, any kindergartener would say that! Ok, perhaps they wouldn’t say “what the world needs” but they surely would say “what I need” or “what my friends need” or “what my dog needs.” They are natural problem-finders, and problem-solvers!

Like Edison, they are constantly observing, investigating, wondering, and asking questions. This, coupled with their imagination, and a rather intense desire to have things that do not yet exist, often leads them to a plethora of problem-finding. This car I just made is too long. We need a zip-line on the playground. Why don’t we have a container that holds all that stuff?

They often also share Edison’s intense confidence, boundless energy, imagination, and love of tinkering. Given the opportunity, time, resources, and a little encouragement, they create many prototypes as they engage in focused and determined problem-solving.

One of my kindergarteners recently discovered a problem she deemed worthy of her thought, time and energy. “How can you open a card without touching it?” Hmmmm …

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“Add some handles!”

We might be inclined to relegate this to the “ah, isn’t that cute” category. While it is cute, it is so much more! It is sophisticated problem-finding and problem-solving. This student took her present knowledge – about cards, sticks, handles, tape, hands – and thought about it in a new way. She used that knowledge to envision something as yet non-existent – a card you can open without touching it. She then took the materials available to her, and used them in novel ways to solve her problem. She created a card with handles. And, it can even be place in an envelope.

Finding problems, thinking divergently as well as convergently, tinkering, testing, and finally, problem-solving are important skills and habits. My fingers are crossed that my students will continue in this way, and one day say, with Thomas Edison “We found out what the world needed, and we went ahead and invented it!”

Resources:

Edison Innovation Foundation http://www.thomasedison.org/