Trophies of imagination – everyone’s a winner
Whilst my three adult children are well past the age of raiding the recycling bin for useful construction material, I haven’t lost the spark of imagination that comes with carefully opening a box, tube, or other packaging to think what a great truck body, train carriage, or space ship it would make. I have fond memories of sending them off to school with bags full of odds and ends only to have these throw-aways returned as prized items morphed during a session spent with scissors, sticky-tape, and chit-chat around the glue-pot. These trophies of imagination would be the topic of dinner table conversation and displayed for visitor viewing before surreptitiously landing back in the recycling box for another play on the carousel of creativity.
This scenario would be familiar to many parents of children an age similar to mine, but I wonder if contemporary parents experience the thrill of seeing a beam of curiosity in the eyes of children as they explain their invention; hearing the confidence in their speech as they describe its purpose for the planet; or, witnessing the pride felt because they made it, all by themselves. Or has the ‘useful box’ been shoved into landfill? To be replaced by a shinier, mass-produced and altogether tested model that leaves little room for the glue-pot, the sticky-tape, the plastic recorder, messy paint aprons; let alone the theatre of making-believe there are fairies at the bottom of a garden, one that has rocks, and sticks and all sorts of stuff for building excellent cubbies?
Educated and creative – one in the same
Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to the ‘useful box’ – a sanity saving device for hot and rainy days in North Queensland when play outside was not an option. And whilst I can claim some of the brownie points for encouraging my children to be dreamers, designers, makers and doers, they are so, in the main, because of the teachers and schools they experienced; people who value-added to the standardised and tested model with copious opportunities for creativity. And for this I am grateful.
My children were fortunate to attend schools that provided a good balance of opportunities to suit diverse learning styles and preferences. Each community had leaders and teachers that actively supported the notion that being educated and creative are one in the same; neither state of being is achieved exclusive of the other. If learning what people often term as ‘the basics’ is necessary for success in knowledge, freedom of thought, speech, and deed, so too are the ‘add-ons’ (not a term I favour) to develop communication skills, tolerance, resilience, and wellbeing; essential for survival in a world where success is a fast-moving target.
The best step forward – creative thinking leads the way
Today, with a vast amount of information about education available from everywhere and for everyone, parents have a job ahead of them to distinguish the best step forward. Despite dynamic changes that have occurred in the years since I chose schools suited to my children, if I had my time over I reckon I’d look for the same values in a learning community as I did back then. I’d look for forward thinking leaders committed to guiding teachers and students to be the best they can be; educators engaged in research-based approaches to teaching and learning; spaces and resources that inspire creative thinking, dreaming, designing and doing; and, a community that embraces the holistic development of young citizens of the world.
I work at Queensland Academies Creative Industries Campus, we call it QACI, and I’m privileged to observe young people emerge from here as curious, confident, and creative thinkers and communicators ready and able to aim for that fast moving target. I see students develop their knowledge and the know-how to collaborate with others to continue their learning – the sort of people-skills that guarantee accomplishment in workforce teams or as independent career-makers. They remind me of my own children and I regularly glimpse evidence that the ‘useful box’ was also part of their learning journeys, and this is pleasing. So too, is my suspicion that the parents of these young people are most likely also inspired by the potential of a humble cardboard package. Creativity is contagious; pass it on! (Albert Einstein)
Joanna Evans – International Baccalaureate Programs, Communications at Queensland Academies Creative Industries. If you want to learn more about QACI click this link.
This article was published in Issue 20 of our print magazine, February/March 2017.