Step Right Up!—2nd Quarterly Imagination Practices Contest

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Lincoln Center Institute has announced the winner of the first quarterly Imagination First practices contest, and invites your entry for the second quarter!

The practices contest challenges readers to come up with their own imaginative practices modeled after the ones that Scott Noppe-Brandon and Eric Liu describe in their book. Every three months, LCI chooses a new practice that most excites us; its author receives an iPod and other valuable prizes. Imagination First is merely the beginning of an ongoing exchange of ideas to which we hope you will contribute.

The first quarterly imagination practices contest has yielded a winner. Randy Compton, a teacher from Colorado, writes:

“We use a little game called THINK-ETS to stimulate imaginative thinking in kids. The game comes with 15 miniature objects from around the world, which, when laid out, naturally evoke imagination and storytelling in kids. Each of the objects is selected to fit into 15 diverse categories, which are chosen so that they are different in color, shape, texture, and weight. We believe that kids love imaginative play—we know they do, because we hear it weekly.”

Actually, we love imaginative play too, and think-ets sound like something you wind up playing with your kid and then can’t stop. The key word in the first sentence of this notice is “first”—the contest continues! The next iPod could be yours. Click here to submit your imaginative practice today!

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You Say “Creativity,” I Say “Imagination,” Let’s Not Call the Whole Thing Off

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Image by Sarah G*

In a July 20 piece for The Huffington Post called “Creativity in the 21st Century, Harvard research psychologist Shelley Carson writes about the urgent need for creativity in the globalized, technological, rapidly changing world of the 21st century. The starting point of her discussion is one of the conclusions reached at the recent G-20 summit in Toronto: “in order to attract investors, nations need to provide ‘an environment that promotes creativity.’” She goes on to talk about the role of creativity in different areas of life, some of which are particularly interesting to me because Eric Liu and I don’t deal with them in our book, Imagination First. These areas include the search for a job during an economic downturn, the quest for a mate in a new social landscape epitomized by Facebook, a parent’s task of instilling values in increasingly media-saturated children, and the modern struggle to manage one’s time and maintain one’s sense of balance. Carson asserts that creative thinking is crucial to success in each of these cases.

Reading the Carson’s arguments, I couldn’t help but think that these scenarios are inextricably bound up with imagination as well as with creativity. The two terms are, after all, often used interchangeably in contemporary discourse. Carson concludes with a “creative tip” for all of us: read about a variety of topics and increase your interests, because “[t]he essence of creativity is the ability to combine disparate bits of information in novel and original ways to form new ideas.” This is the very thinking behind the seventh imaginative practice in Imagination First, “Hoard Bits.” Whether we choose to think in terms of “imagination” or in terms of “creativity,” we must remember that what’s really at stake here is a way of life characterized by courageous openness to possibility.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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Imagination Conversation Report: National Update–June/July 2010

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As summer gets underway, Lincoln Center Institute’s (LCI) Imagination Conversations initiative is moving full speed ahead. A Conversation took place in West Memphis, Arkansas, on July 14, and another will occur in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, on July 27 and 28. More are planned for the fall in Indiana; Ohio; Colorado; New Jersey; South Carolina; Maryland; Minnesota; Nebraska; and Texas. For details, visit http://imaginationconversation.org. Read on to learn how the project is progressing. Continue reading

Not on the Test

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Singer-songwriter Tom Chapin, who grew up in the NYC public schools, worries about the potential long-term consequences for students in cases where testing requirements drive school curriculum.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Chapin reminds us of the importance of a well-rounded curriculum—including the arts—in educating students for a future that is sure to value imagination and creativity as critical capacities.

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News from New Orleans

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Image by Martin Haase*

I’m pleased to see that the ICI Continuum concept (imagination –> creativity –> innovation), which is central to my and Eric Liu’s book Imagination First (unsurprisingly so, since it is at the center of LCI’s teaching-for-imagination methodology), has popped up yet again—this time in Louisiana. The Town Talk reports that state educators assembled at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts on June 28 for the Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation (ICI) Summer Institute. This four-day professional development event, conceived and coordinated by KIDsmART of New Orleans and sponsored by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development, gave K-4 educators the opportunity to receive training in arts integration methods from consultants and arts teachers. Dana LaFonta, executive director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts, makes remarks in the article that strongly echo LCI’s beliefs: in today’s global economy, “arts education develops skills for the 21st century: creative thinking, problem solving, individual responsibility and teamwork.” Add imagination to the list; better yet, put it at the head of that list. Pleasant as it is to find the ICI formula being invoked in public discourse, it’s even more satisfying to know that Louisiana educators are fostering in students the capacities necessary for workforce success—and that state government is supporting the effort.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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