Coloring Outside the Lines

Image by Samantha Celera*

Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations aim to, among other things, unite diverse sectors by drawing attention to their shared reliance on imagination. So it’s exciting for me to see the corporate and education worlds coming together on behalf of this cause: Crayola and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have just awarded “Champion Creatively Alive Children” grants to 20 American elementary schools. According to a press release, the grants, “which will fund innovative programs aimed at fostering children’s critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills,” include $2,500 and Crayola products worth $500. The winning programs include one that will enable students to “find their individual voice” through puppetry, and another that will ask students to visually solve a new problem every month. (The full list is here.) For any interested educators, the eventual outcomes of these learning initiatives will be made public on NAESP’s Web site. In the press release, NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly touches on one of LCI’s main concerns when she mentions “preparing our nation’s children to thrive in the 21st century—a task that depends on fostering a culture of creativity and critical thinking.”

In a similar vein, LCI has created the annual Imagination Award to recognize and highlight imaginative thinking in the teaching and learning practice of public schools. Begun in New York City, and inspired in part by LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning, the Imagination Award is now also awarded to a school in Washington State. Winning schools exhibit evidence of the incorporation of imaginative thinking across the curriculum, in subjects from art to English to the natural sciences. The school must demonstrate the ability to construct learning environments in which imagination is cultivated as part of learning as well as teaching.

These ideas, it seems to me, is very much on the minds of people in all realms of society right now. I applaud Crayola and NAESP as well as the grant recipients for transforming them into action. The education and business communities are beginning to see that both of their futures hinge on their ability to harness the power of imagination.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

2nd Imagination Practice Winner Announced

Image by Orin Zebest*

We recently announced that the next winning imagination practice might find its way into the upcoming revised edition of Imagination First. Well, so might the winner of the current contest round. Let’s have California teacher Betty Cavanaugh tell you about her imagination practice in her own words:

“What is the world’s biggest secret? That is the prompt I use with students. Their imagination soars with that question because the answers are limitless. After working in a group to generate ridiculous answers, students select their favorite response to develop into a colorful drawing and written story. Some favorite answers include: All the dinosaurs migrated to the center of the earth and their movement causes earthquakes. Animals are actually alien life forms from other planets. Tiny gnomes and fairies come out at night and paint the colors on all the flowers and leaves. Students enjoy playing this ‘game’ that also generates creative, imaginative written responses and dynamic artwork. I have also used this lesson during long car rides with my children.”

Cavanaugh is also an author. For a peek at her book, Multicultural Art Activities, check it out here on Google Books.

Cavanaugh joins our first winner Randy Compton, a Colorado teacher and creator of educational toys called Think-ets, in winning an iPod as a prize. Both might be included in the second edition of Imagination First. The third round of the competition is now underway! Read Imagination First and think about other practices of possibility from your own work and life. Write them up and submit them. Our team will read and review all the practices you submit and post them online. Don’t delay: the deadline to submit your practice for the next round of the competition is November 15th!

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