Monday, March 30, 2015

Creativity: What are we truly wanting?

I just recently purchased my four year old son his first box of legos. In short... he loves them! Ever since he was born, he has been enamored with anything having to do with engineering, motors, construction, physics. He loves anything that moves, rolls, digs, bangs, clangs, rotates, etc. He loves cars, trucks, trains, machinery, dump trucks, garbage trucks, moving trucks, and more. Despite this love for the aforementioned items, I hesitated to dive into the creative world of legos because I just did not know what to expect... "would he become frustrated? would he even like it? could he manipulate the pieces with his tiny hands that could possibly prove a challenge for even his good dexterity?" All of these questions presented themselves to me. Nonetheless, I took the plunge. I am glad I did too. Here is what I noticed:

For the first time, he was able to create the things he loves. He was able to create with his own brain, imagination, mind, creativity, innovation, and planning any item he wanted that would/could roll, move, bang, clang, and move around. You see, for quite some time, he has had the opportunity to roll a "Hot Wheels" car or a Tonka truck, BUT he did not create it. He also has been able to move a "Thomas the Tank Engine" BUT he was not the curator. He manipulated remote control cars, BUT he was not the master mind behind the creation of the machine. It was already given to him and then he... well, he played (as he should). And, although he had fun while playing with these pre-made items (who wouldn't?), he lacked something extra... something he could really take pride in: his own opportunity to sit back and think and perhaps even say aloud... "look what I created."

In fact, my most significant observation came in the form of an awakening I had about what it means to create. You see, the box of legos I bought for my son came with explicit directions for how to create a specific machine which is conveniently featured in the photo at the top along with my son's small fingers. I put all of the pieces together, following each step of the directions meticulously so that I could achieve my own sort of self-accomplishment while also showing my first born my skills as if to pound on my chest and cry out to the world... "this is my creation, look at me, look at what I have done!!!" I am serious... it really is amazing how exhilarating creating even a child's lego feels to me, a man in my 30s. Okay... enough about me. I want to really focus on my son... you see... he liked my creation. I saw it in his eyes, he liked the fact that it mirrored the picture of the lego on the box. He really did and you know what... I am glad he did because quite frankly, it made me proud. But, you know what else? I noticed something else even cooler. Although he liked my creation which was identical to the rendering on the box and was a direct result of the directions... HE LOVED HIS OWN CREATION. His own creation can be seen in the photo on the right hand side. It comes complete with an antennae (in the form of the orange cone), a vent on the roof, and a simple body style. He LOVED it. And, you know what... I LOVED it too. I loved it because he did.

He did not follow the directions. He did not make his by following a standard. He did not meet any expectations. He did not abide by some template. He did not take a blueprint and make sure he was within the parameters of what someone else has required. He just created: freely, openly, and innocently. I love it! He also created a different lego car later (featured below) and he said... "look dad, this one is extra long!" He later discovered that the length made for a pretty fragile car in the middle of the vehicle where it would easily break apart. I saw his own learning taking place: his own analyzing, his own "wheels were turning" (pardon the pun).

These observations have left me asking the following questions about what we have set up with regard to creativity in our homes with our children, in our schools with our students and in our workplaces with our employees. What are we teaching our students and our young people or our workers or our employees when we hold them to the same confines of directions that are cookie-cutter? What are we really desiring by seeking standardization? What is the result of following a pre-made template/blueprint? Maybe it is the appearance of quality. I am not opposed to quality. I desire quality too. However, under what guise. I am seeing that even the quality lego creation I made for my son was not original, it was not innovative, it was not full of discovery and curiosity, and perhaps most importantly: pride. I want to encourage us all to think about what it means for us to be truly creative. What are we creating? More importantly, WHO are we creating? Individuals who merely follow a plan sent down from someone above like an obedient robot or individuals who think for themselves, experience the messiness of freedom, and who become curators and innovators of the next world-changing creation?

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