WNET Spotlights LCI in Article on Arts Organizations and Schools

Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) is featured in a new article for MetroFocus, WNET’s multi-platform magazine. The piece, entitled “Surprising Schoolyard Pals,” focuses on the growing number of partnerships between area arts organizations and local schools. This isn’t an entirely recent phenomenon, however: we’ve been at it for 36 years.

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Lincoln Center Institute’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning

Image by Nancy Bareis

A growing number of blog visitors have been seeking information about Lincoln Center Institute‘s Capacities for Imaginative Learning.

LCI has created the Capacities for Imaginative Learning as a framework for student learning, applicable to the Common Core Standards across the curriculum. The Capacities operate as both strategies for, and outcomes of, study according to LCI’s practice.

The Capacities for Imaginative Learning are:

Noticing Deeply to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art or other object of study through continuous interaction with it over time.

Embodying to experience a work of art or other object of study through your senses, as well as emotionally, and also to physically represent that experience.

Questioning to ask questions throughout your explorations that further your own learning; to ask the question, “What if?”

Making Connections to connect what you notice and the patterns you see to your prior knowledge and experiences, to others’ knowledge and experiences, and to text and multimedia resources.

Identifying Patterns to find relationships among the details that you notice, group them, and recognize patterns.

Exhibiting Empathy to respect the diverse perspectives of others in the community; to understand the experiences of others emotionally, as well as intellectually.

Living with Ambiguity to understand that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and to be patient while a resolution becomes clear.

Creating Meaning to create your own interpretations based on the previous capacities, see these in the light of others in the community, create a synthesis, and express it in your own voice.

Taking Action to try out new ideas, behaviors or situations in ways that are neither too easy nor too dangerous or difficult, based on the synthesis of what you have learned in your explorations.

Reflecting/Assessing to look back on your learning, continually assess what you have learned, assess/identify what challenges remain, and assess/identify what further learning needs to happen. This occurs not only at the end of a learning experience, but is part of what happens throughout that experience. It is also not the end of your learning; it is part of beginning to learn something else.

Click here to download a copy of LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning (pdf)

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.

CEOs in the Market for Creativity


I’ve written on many occasions about the need for imagination, creativity, and innovation (ICI) in business, even going so far as to call the first item on that list America’s “greatest domestic renewable resource” (in the book, Imagination First, co-authored with Eric Liu, page 26). But don’t take my word for it: according to IBM’s fourth biennial Global CEO Study—for which IBM consultants interviewed over 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries—business leaders around the globe “believe that … successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity” more than anything else. (Read the press release here.) While 80% of those surveyed think their environment will soon become even more volatile and complex than it is today, only 49% are confident that their organizations are prepared to respond to such growth, the inevitable result of industry transformation and modern technology. This gap between present capabilities and future demands explains why, in the words of IBM Global Business Services Senior Vice President Frank Kern, “CEOs identify creativity as the number one leadership competency of the successful enterprise of the future.” I should also mention that one of the points made by the CEOs—“Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity”—mirrors one of Lincoln Center Institute’s ten Capacities for Imaginative Learning, “Living with Ambiguity.” Indeed, it’s crucial in all areas of life to understand that problems may have more than one solution and that finding solutions may take time. The similarity between the CEOs’ thinking and ours is a fresh reminder that the world of ICI is a small one!

Image provided by IBM.

Full STEM Ahead in Rochester


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

Nature and the Brain


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

Arts in Education in Steel City


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.


Congratulations to NYC’s PS 219—Winner of the 2010 Imagination Award


We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2010 LCI Imagination Award, PS 219, the Kennedy-King Elementary School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The celebration, and the giving of the $5000 award, took place at the school on the morning of June 23rd as part of the 5th-grade graduation ceremony. In his speech, Lincoln Center Institute’s Executive Director, Scott Noppe-Brandon, praised the school for using principles of teaching that align with LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning, which emphasize students’ ability to—among other qualities—connect study to their lives, whether that study is about math or the issue of homelessness or yesterday’s historic figures. He described how moved the Award board was by PS 219’s application materials, which likened a classroom to a jigsaw puzzle: each child a unique piece with a different size, shape, and pattern, yet all necessary to make the whole picture. “The larger jigsaw puzzle is the world,” Noppe-Brandon said, “where all come together to create the complete picture, and you are all citizens of this country, of the traditions that your parents came from, and of the world.”

You can find an in-depth article about the award and PS 219 in Brooklyn’s Canarsie Courier, and check out the photo album on Facebook. Curious about the Imagination Award? Check out the selection criteria.


Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part Three


Image by muellermartin*

Coming of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I occasionally got the impression that certain members of the anti-establishment community thought that they were the first people ever to protest a government, and that their methods were utterly unique and had no historical precedent. In retrospect, I think some of the radical movements of the time might have met with greater success had they been more conscious of the continua of which they were a part. When you’re deeply involved with a set of ideas, it’s important to know not only where you stand, but also who came before you and who else is doing what you’re doing. I’m speaking to myself and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute now, and to all educators who support our work. What can we do better? Continue reading

The Pope’s Telescope


Image by Sarah G*

The discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe would be the greatest turning point in the history of humankind. Fire, the wheel, religion, organized government, the printing press, the computer—all of these breakthroughs, which have enabled us to advance in so many ways—would pale in comparison. Of course, the scenarios I’m imagining wouldn’t necessarily have to involve intelligence: mere microbes from other planets could help us cure diseases. But what does the Vatican, of all institutions, have to do with this?

In November, the Associated Press reported that “the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.” The Reverend José Gabriel Funes, director of the 120 year-old Vatican Observatory, held a weeklong conference that brought together thirty scientists—astronomers, physicists, biologists, and other experts—to discuss these issues. Obviously, the possibility of sentient beings existing beyond Earth raises many questions for adherents of all religions, but the conference centered on science rather than theology. This interests me most, however, as an illustration of imagination at work. Continue reading