Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation Find a Home in Louisiana

Image by Woodley Wonderworks

On July 9, I wrote about the Imagination, Creativity and Innovation (ICI) Summer Institute, a professional development event for Louisiana teachers that took place in June and was hosted by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development/Division of the Arts. The state has now announced, to my delight, that it will pilot its ICI Initiative—“developed to nurture creativity and advance 21st-century skills in every learner through an arts-integrated education”—in eight schools, starting this 2010-2011 school year. This initiative was born as a response to “Act 175,” a bill the Louisiana Legislature passed in 2007 to create a mandate for arts education. The press release announcing the new pilot program cites the positive outcomes in other states that have integrated the arts into classrooms: “increased student achievement, increased attendance by students and staff, increased rates of retention, improved school climate, greater parent participation, and building a sense of community around the school.” Indeed, Lincoln Center Institute has seen many studies that confirm these claims (including The Center for Arts Education’s “Staying in School,” which focuses on New York City high schools and which I blogged about back in November 2009). Another exciting aspect of Louisiana’s plan is that students will encounter new artistic disciplines each year, all of which will be incorporated into their language arts curriculum. Finally, in keeping with LCI’s belief in a balance between imaginative learning and accountability, “outcomes” will be “linked to state and national standards.” I can’t wait to see what happens here!

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School’s Out for Summer

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Image by Pawel Loj*

In “Untapped Creativity Needs Instruction That’s Engaging,” an August 19 commentary piece for the Toledo Blade, Marilou Johanek discusses Camp Invention, a program of Invent Now Kids. The camp is “geared to promoting … creativity in primary education” and includes activities such as taking apart old appliances to build new inventions, making an imaginary city more environmentally sound, and figuring out how to survive on an unknown planet called Zak. Johanek sometimes worries that school curricula designed solely to boost standardized test scores do not give students opportunities to stretch their imaginations and creativity. But at Camp Invention, it is precisely “[t]hrough imaginative play [that campers] are exposed to curricula aligned with state and national standards.” This approach seems to balance imaginative learning with accountability—just the sort of balance that we at Lincoln Center Institute advocate. It ensures that young people learn the basics they may be tested on, but does so without limiting their personal exploratory freedom. It is likely that participants in this kind of program will be better prepared for their futures as adults: the combination of knowledge and self-directed discovery that the camp fosters is an asset to any effective leader, decision-maker, or citizen.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.