Breaking Boundaries; Part 1: Venturing Forward

So the breaking boundaries missing post…

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I have no idea what happened to the part 1 post from yesterday, but I cannot find it anywhere.

Essentially I wanted to talk about my progress so far with my iVenture.

I have officially created my planning brief for my iVenture about how stories effect us. I spent yesterday planning ahead about my next steps. To start I want to interview various teachers and students at school (just to start with things I’m familiar with) and then moving on to authors and actors and artist and other people outside of school. My hypothesis is that asking what stories mean to a writer is going to be different than asking a high schooler, and I’m expecting that there will be a disconnect between why people choose to write and how school portrays and teachers writing.

I also had a conversation with Mr. Adams about not going to 7th period next Tuesday so that I can use that time to join the high school band. Because of ID I haven’t been able to play in band this year, but I’ve been using Thursday mornings where we have a late start, to go and play with the middle school band. I have also practiced a lot at home and will be playing at the concert with both bands. I have worked with all of my teachers that will be effected by this schedule change (I’ve moved more than just ID time around) so that I can be able to practice at least once with the high school band before the concert in 2 weeks. It is important for me to be able to hear how the rest of the band sounds and how my part fits into the music, also being able to be in the class will allow me to get feedback and assistance from our band conductor which I can’t get on my own. Mr. Adams thought my plan sounded logical, and he also suspected that I was really passionate about flute playing (that’s my instrument). He was curious how I could relate this to my iVenture. After all, ID is meant to be a time for you to work on things that usually you would have to do outside of school.

I had never taught about using ID time to finish Pi the Musical which is a piece I started composing a few years ago using digits of pi and the b flat scale. Or finishing the unoffical coVenture Kaylyn and I have been working on with creating a musical playlist for ID with songs that we have changed the words to and made about innovation. When he mentioned this though, I realized that my iVenture is about stories, and if I want to encourage others to share stories, and to not feel confined to writing, then I need to lead by example. Moving forward, I want to start diving up my time during the week so I make sure to focus on how others think of story telling and how to get students more comfortable with sharing, but I also want to focus on how I personally tell stories.

Moving into today, we had something interesting happen during ID time. A while back we decided to use Fridays for reading and discussing, so today during advisory we read The Creativity Crisis. When we went back later for 7th period, Mr. Adams and Ms. Cureton were in a meeting still, so they asked us to just a facilitate a conversation about it by ourselves. We all love the two of them, but we also don’t think that discussion would have been the same if they were there. Sometimes, no matter who the teacher is, there is this complex where you feel “pressure” just by the presence of an adult. I know we are working on breaking that habit of teachers ask questions, students answer because they were told to, but when a teacher is present it tends to change the overall mood and tone; who knows why?

Our conversation started with some quotes from this article, and what was interesting was that we didn’t all agree with everything it said about creativity. We agreed 100% with things like the importance of realizing, “The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.” However, we did not agree with the hypothesis about US creativity being lower than other countries due to TV and video games. TV and video games can spark creativity, it just depends who you are. They are just different ways to receive information and create/hear/share stories. Would you say reading a book makes you less creative?

We also didn’t really accept the idea of defining creativity. Consider this, “The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).” We did mind the fact that the author chooses to say “the accepted definition”; however, from our perspective, creative looks different to everyone, so you can’t define it, you can observe it though.

The majority of the article talks about the Torrence Test for measuring creativity. While we were fascinated by the results of this testing, the idea of testing creativity bothered us. This test is commonly used for how public schools create their gifted programs. I was apart of the gifted program at my old elementary (public) school, and I know I was somehow tested for creativity, but I never thought about how weird that is. You can first get in during first grade, so I know I was tested in kindergarden, but I don’t remember how. That was a long time ago during years that are typically just hard to remember.

If creativity can’t be defined and is always different, how can you measure it in a way that works for every evaluation? It just doesn’t seem possible, and the article didn’t speak much about it.

These two paragraphs in particular really spoke to the cohort:

From fourth grade on, creativity no longer occurs in a vacuum; researching and studying become an integral part of coming up with useful solutions. But this transition isn’t easy. As school stuffs more complex information into their heads, kids get overloaded, and creativity suffers. When creative children have a supportive teacher—someone tolerant of unconventional answers, occasional disruptions, or detours of curiosity—they tend to excel. When they don’t, they tend to underperform and drop out of high school or don’t finish college at high rates.

They’re quitting because they’re discouraged and bored, not because they’re dark, depressed, anxious, or neurotic. It’s a myth that creative people have these traits. (Those traits actually shut down creativity; they make people less open to experience and less interested in novelty.) Rather, creative people, for the most part, exhibit active moods and positive affect. They’re not particularly happy—contentment is a kind of complacency creative people rarely have. But they’re engaged, motivated, and open to the world.

While examining this our conversation got away from the article and more to personal experiences. We all realized how abandoned our 7th/8th grade seems from the design thinking world. Going to high school is always a big jump, but at MVPS, that jump includes being thrown into these year long projects that we do, with added complicated schedules to go with them. I support these projects a ton, but being in ID, and working with the freshman more than most others, the upper class men in ID were able to notice how much less the freshman had been exposed to the design thinking world. Why?

Occasionally you will have some teachers from the middle school that really embrace DT, but all of our cohort members that were at MVPS for middle school agreed that middle school didn’t bring justice to DT overall. We hear and do ethnography about the lower schools redesigns, and the high school is trying to get there and we are a living working prototype of that, but we have never really focused on the middle schoolers. My sister is in 7th grade, and today in the car while my brother, who’s in 3rd grade at MVPS, and I were talking about DT challenges and my sister’s response to the conversation was, “Ya, the middle school doesn’t do any of that.” I’m sure that isn’t true, but if that is what the middle schoolers think, that they don’t know what innovation even is, that is bothersome.

I proposed to the cohort a new venture today: we want to focus on the middle school and their involvement with design thinking and innovation. We had a lot of thoughts and discoveries, but we want to dig deeper before assuming the problem. Now we shall see what happens.

(Oh and I want to point out again, most of this conversation was created just by students, the teachers were in a different room until the last 20 minutes of this hour. Give them the opportunity, and eventually, students will step up to the challenge.)

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