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Creativity and Innovation

Fostering Creativity and Innovation

How do teachers and project leaders integrate creativity into lesson plans and projects? How do schools and youth programs create an environment that encourages creative thinking and risk taking? How do students develop skills such as creativity, design thinking, communication, teamwork and persistence that they can use in current and future classroom, community and career settings?

Some key elements of creativity building:

  • Challenge. The idea of "flow" suggests that people are happiest and most productive when they are working at a level that provides just the right level of challenge - projects that stretch our reach but are not out-of-reach. Projects should feel fresh -- introducing something new or exploring new depths of a familiar topic. The Massachusetts Creativity and Innovation Rubric (featured in the Creativity and Innovation Forum) emphasizes the value of working on challenging projects based on grade-level curriculum frameworks.

  • Work that crosses disciplines and settings. Inspiration often comes from working across disciplines. For example, fiction writers draw inspiration from history when writing historic fiction. Architects draw on biology for inspiration in designing heating, cooling, storage and other systems. Fashion designers draw on inspiration from the fine arts. Mathematicians achieve breakthroughs while applying math to science and engineering problems. In the same way, students see their work in a new light when working across disciplines and when connecting academic work with community, career and personal interests.

  • An environment that fosters creativity. In classrooms, community settings and workplaces, individuals are most creative in settings that encourage them to show initiative, take risks, demonstrate persistence, and make and learn from mistakes. Creativity happens best when individuals are willing to collaborate, borrow ideas from one another and build on one another's ideas.

  • Time and resources to support creative work. Individuals work most productively and creatively when they have time to experiment, tinker and explore; and when they have the opportunity to draw on a variety of internal and external resources and use a variety of tools and techniques.

  • Connections. Creativity flourishes when the project has intrinsic value. The project builds on a student's personal, classroom, community or career interests. The project will have artistic value or will provide a creative and positive contribution to the community, workplace or classroom setting. The project will be shared with others: there may be families and peers who will view an exhibition of student projects; customers who will use and enjoy a student-produced product or service; science fair judges who will evaluate a project; workplace supervisors who evaluate the work of an internship; community partners who will benefit from the results of a student project.

  • Assessment and reflection to support creativity. Creativity is supported by systems of ongoing assessment that help individuals to reflect on the creative process, to evaluate the quality of products and to understand the skills, techniques and working environments that foster their best creative work.

How can you apply these ideas to your own projects and lesson plans?