On August 21, 2020, the world lost a visionary leader. New York Times bestselling author and educator, Sir Ken Robinson, PhD., lost his battle with cancer.
I had never met the witty Sir Ken, but I have always been infatuated with his message. For decades, he led national and international projects on the culture of creativity. He rebelled against the norm of schools and instead ignited passion for more organic learning environments. Robinson’s 2006 TED talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’, which will have you chuckling, is the most watched TED talk to date. Each semester, I insist that my students at Wayne State view and discuss the themes.
So, why am I obsessed with Robinson’s message? For any of you that may know me, you know how passionate I am that we do right by our students. In the opening of the famous TED talk, Sir Ken argues that “creativity should be as important as literacy in our classrooms and it should be treated with the same status.” Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value, which comes about more times than not by the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” For me, this all just seems right.
With this idea of marrying creativity and literacy, colleagues and I set out this summer to provide our county’s families with engaging at-home learning materials with no cost to the family. Alongside eleven districts in the county, we organized STEAM Lit Camps for nearly three hundred elementary students. Kits full of supplies for inventing were accompanied by over a dozen books and sent to each student’s home. One parent remarked, “You would have thought it was Christmas morning at our home.”
During the four-week camp, students met online Monday through Thursday with their assigned teacher. The first exciting lesson- setting up a reading environment. Kids constructed Fort Magic forts in all shapes and sizes and lit up their new build with a Squishy Circuit light creation. Their masterpieces were amazing and their enthusiasm for having a place to read and write was contagious! Brothers and sisters, moms and dads, cats and dogs squeezed in the forts for quality reading time with books focused on building, creating, and inventing. During Week 1, students also established science notebooks and built roller coasters and straw towers.
Teachers enjoyed time to dig deeply into books and instructional support. They began to figure out the magic of online small groups, grounded each day with a powerful read aloud and thoughtful questioning techniques. It was amazing to witness the teachers finding a balance between online engagement and trusted independence.
The success of summer camps has me further convinced that the importance of creativity in the classroom is a must. As we embark on a new school year and in the midst of our reflective critique of the current school model, I encourage you to reimagine learning to include more time spent on creativity with the intention of motivating readers and writers.
As Sir Ken Robinson once stated, “All kids have tremendous talents and capacity for innovation.”
Thank you, Sir Ken Robinson for your service to our field. May you rest in peace knowing your message lives on.
Lisa Rivard, PhD
Macomb Intermediate School District
Wayne State University