This past year, I received a professional development award from Alberta Education which I was directed to use for my own, individual learning. I decided to google search creativity and innovation to see what conferences might be available. I felt this would help me support continued exploration for how to develop these cross-curricular competencies, which are included in Alberta Education’s work around curriculum re-design, among staff and students at Greystone. I came across the Creativity Workshop – a learning opportunity designed to ignite the spark of creativity and to develop an understanding of the creative process among participants. The website for this workshop looked incredibly appealing for many reasons, including the fact that the sessions were offered in amazing destinations including Dubai, Dublin, Florence, New York City. I ended up coordinating my conference with a trip my husband and I had previously planned to Italy.The workshop, in Florence, served as a starting point for our six week Italian adventure.
The journey to explore my own creative side started this past May when I received an e-mail from one of the organizers of the Creativity Workshop, giving me a list of suggested items to photograph. One of the items on the list was to take a picture of an animal I could find in the clouds. Oh brother! I thought this was absolutely ridiculous and couldn’t imagine how a five day workshop that started out by having me stare at the clouds would possibly provide any worthwhile learning for me or my school community! I ended up completing the first task of gathering pictures, including making time to stare at the clouds, while I was at our grade 6 camp with students. I did this bright and early one morning while the students were still asleep and the camp was quiet and peaceful, a pretty rare occurrence with over one hundred twelve year olds on the loose in cabins. It was glorious, actually, as the birds were chirping away, I was looking out over the calm waters of Lake Nakamun, and then, I found myself staring up at the clouds – looking for animals.
This started the process of creative awakening for me – a process which continued in Florence three weeks later. The workshop in Florence began, for me, with a little unease and skepticism as I still wasn’t convinced that the activities I had been doing in preparation for the course, including the cloud gazing, were anything more than a flaky waste of time; however, as the days unfolded, and as each experience built on the other, I became hooked by about day three. By day five, the last day, I didn’t want the workshop to end! What I loved about this experience, among other things, was the opportunity to get to know a diverse group of over 30 different people, of all ages and varying lines of work including several college professors, an interior designer, school district superintendents, an educational technologist, business managers, middle school and high school teachers, a dancer and novelist. They travelled here, to Florence, from all around the world, from places I had never been – Israel, Australia, Texas, South Carolina, and even a few fellow Canadians. Their stories are all as unique as they are; however, the one thing that united each of us is our belief in the importance of creativity in our personal and professional lives.
There were numerous activities that we engaged in, I mean REALLY engaged in. We were on the floor visualizing, sketching and writing. We were partnered up with others in whisper conversations, almost like we were creating secret conspiracies. We were wandering the streets of Florence with cameras in hand to capture evidence of our new found powers of observation. We were hanging out in cafes in search of “victims” to sketch and write about. It was five days filled with play, fun, exploration, reflection and self-discovery. We were reminded of the importance of taking risks, of making mistakes, of re-connecting with our child-like curiosity and we all had the opportunity to explore our own unique creative potential. Some key learnings for me include the following:
*EVERYONE has the capacity to be creative – you just have to make time for it – as little as 15 minutes a day
*brain research tells us that our brains are NOT wired for multi-tasking – we need to slow down and go deeper on one thing at a time – this is especially true when creating
*creativity and analysis go together – come up with creative ideas and then analyze, refine, develop into a plan for action…BUT…both do not happen at the same time – allow for creativity WITHOUT analyzing – the creative process needs time for exploration, play, discovery WITHOUT judgement or critiquing
*process is more vital than product
*collaboration, NOT competition, stimulates creativity and allows for ideas to build and grow
*the act of writing something down triggers better memory – there is still a place for paper and pencil in writing and/or sketching
*the brain is wired to look for connections and patterns – keep an idea book for random thoughts, ideas – later, the brain will find a way to connect these into something meaningful
*the word amateur comes from the word “ama” which means to love what you do – being an amateur is a good thing as it means being passionate in your work
So, as my workshop came to an end, I knew that my new found understanding around the creative process was not going to end – it is just beginning. I will continue to seek inspiration from the clouds and from many other sources as I develop my capacity and the capacity of others for creative exploration.