Full STEM Ahead in Rochester

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Image by Vestman*

On March 4, I wrote about the connection between the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and the arts. Guided encounters with works of art and study of them based on the Capacities for Imaginative Learning help develop students’ imaginative and creative thinking skills—skills that supplement STEM knowledge in crucial ways. But let’s not try to change STEM into STEAM by simply adding the arts to the mix. It will not work. What will is to utilize the learning and thinking skills developed through the capacities within STEM education, so that the arts + STEM may be STEM with an “attitude.” It’s quite gratifying for me to see this concept very publicly embodied by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. Continue reading

Creativity World Forum

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The Creativity World Forum, to be held in Oklahoma City this November 15 – 17, is an annual event of the International Districts of Creativity. This very exciting international gathering of creative individuals will certainly prove to be an interesting marketplace of ideas. Among the 24 luminaries to speak will be: Daniel Pink; Sir Ken Robinson; Robert Sternberg; and Imagination Now blogger, co-author of Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, and Lincoln Center Institute Executive Director Scott Noppe-Brandon.

Registration is available at http://stateofcreativity.com. Register soon as the discounted Early Bird Registration Fee is available through October 15th.

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The Educator and the Businesspeople

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Image by Jane Hoffer

On June 22 and 23, I, Scott Noppe-Brandon, executive director of Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), rode downtown to New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel to attend the 2010 New York Forum (NYF), which brought together business leaders to address current challenges facing the global economy. What was I doing there? Knowing about my belief in the power of imagination to transform the American workforce—which I express in Imagination FirstRichard Attias, the event’s founder and producer, had invited me. I found myself perhaps the only educator, certainly the only arts educator, among a high-powered group of CEOs, economists, policy makers, and other prominent members of the business community. Continue reading

Nature and the Brain

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Image by derekp*

I spent parts of my childhood summers at camp, where youngsters slept cricket-infused nights in canvas bungalows and swam and hiked through mosquito-blitzed days. As a teenager, I backpacked in the Adirondacks and the Rockies. I have idly gazed at sunsets on the west coasts of Michigan, of Florida, and of a small island in Ontario. I miss those days—it’s been a long time. Afterward you feel energized, refreshed. It’s common sense to see nature vacations as inherently restorative, right? True enough. But recently, as reported in the New York Times, five eminent researchers took to the environs of the San Juan River in southern Utah to see what they could discover about “getting away from it all” in nature, from the perspective of brain science. They seem to have come away from the experience with more questions than they went in with, and with some innovative ideas about ways to address them. Continue reading

Beyond the Monkey Bars

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Image by Elizabeth Albert*

To any parent who’s ever wished that their child’s experience at the local playground could be a little more meaningful, Imagination Playground comes as a welcome surprise. Roger Clark of NY1 reports that the first Imagination Playground Park, designed by high-profile architect David Rockwell, opened on July 27 in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport area. So what makes this space different from the traditional model that includes swings, slides, see-saws, and so on? The three features that set Imagination Playground apart are: loose parts (movable objects that enable children to build imaginatively); a manipulable environment (one equipped with raw materials, like sand and water, which prompt creativity); and Play Associates (trained adults who supervise and encourage children’s activities).

The thinking behind this experiment is that mental exercise is just as important for kids as its physical counterpart; imaginative play and collaborative play develop the young mind in several positive ways—as LCI’s teaching artists would be the first to testify. From Imagination Playground’s press kit: “Research shows that children at the age of eight who have experienced varied and challenging play are considerably better prepared to benefit from ongoing formal education.” So if you’re a New York City resident who’s in town this summer, lure your children away from the video game console and offer them a new kind of adventure. Take a field trip to Imagination Playground, located on John Street between Front and South Streets. Let them be the masters of their own game. And if you’re not in NYC, sit tight: Rockwell Group and KaBOOM!, the two organizations behind this new and exciting concept, are now looking at potential sites across America.

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

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Q: What Does the World’s Quickest Theater Festival Look Like?

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Image by Joshua Sliwa*

A: A whole lot of fun.

Large groups of theater artists meet periodically to plan, write, rehearse, and produce seven brand-new 10-minute plays in 24 hours—truly: they choose a theme at 8 p.m. on a Thursday and open at 8 p.m. on Friday. And then they do it all over again the next night with a new theme. It is called 14/48, and if you’re in the vicinity of Seattle this weekend, you can experience for yourself the fruits of this imaginative practice. There are two shows on Friday and two on Saturday. Tickets are only $20.

Click here for a description of the 14/48 process with a timeline.

Click here for the 14/48 blog.

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

Arts in Education in Steel City

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Image by Miles Gehm*

The title of a recent article by Kellie B. Gormly in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is also one of our guiding principles here at Lincoln Center Institute: “The arts ignite children’s creativity, innovation, and imagination.” Eric Liu and I argue in Imagination First that the order of these concepts is: imagination → creativity → innovation. In this sequence, each prompts the other. But no matter what order they’re listed in, it’s always encouraging to see them appear in an educational context. Gormly’s piece is a concise and accessible look at the role of the arts in the development of young people.

Sarah Tambucci, director of the Arts Education Collaborative, points out in the article that, in addition to making them more culturally sophisticated, “Arts also teach children that problems can have more than one solution … and questions can have more than one answer. The arts help our children … celebrate multiple perspectives.” This view is in sync with two of LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning: Living with Ambiguity and Exhibiting Empathy. In our world—an increasingly complex world—situations may be successfully resolved in different ways and at different speeds, and individuals are bound to approach things differently, based on their unique backgrounds and experiences. This is mirrored  in LCI’s guided explorations of artworks, which enable children, who are often forced to think in terms of “right” and “wrong,” to understand that the truth—or should I say “truths”—may lie beyond those limitations.

Gormly acknowledges that, while many struggling American school districts are shrinking arts education programs, this trend, fortunately, has not reached Western Pennsylvania. Kudos to schools in that region for recognizing the value of the arts!

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

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