A quick review of experiences at Journeys School in the last few weeks includes the following: winning the state championship for high school robotics, designing sculpture in the pre-kindergarten with scrap metal, creating short films for a national chemistry competition, relating musical chords to trigonometric functions, explorations of time in the elementary school, and building with Legos.

Orbiting outside and integrated with the important sequences of the core classes such as math and literacy, these learning opportunities made me reflect on the importance of the development of creativity – in and out of school. Too often, the narrowing of curriculum in American schools has reduced the opportunities for students to come up with their own creative solutions to problems. In response, there is much discussion in the educational world about 21st century skills. Journeys School has embraced this with a set of competency outcomes, including creativity and problem solving defined as “a creative mind that recognizes novel and varied approaches to problem solving.”

The development of creativity serves all disciplines. For example, in the higher levels of math, we constantly push students away from rote memorization of formulae to thoughtful understanding of approaches to solve complex problems. In English, the ability to write well depends on a student’s capacity to create engaging contexts supported by excellent mechanics and substance. Research suggests that intrinsic motivation is related to higher levels of creativity. Given the high level of engagement of Journeys School students, intrinsic motivation is clearly promoted and developed. Our students love learning.

Outside of school environments also need to be considered. In the modern child’s highly structured out of school environment, time needs to be allotted for free-play, both indoors and outside. Provide children with real materials to create real projects. Consider actual tools rather than plastic replicates. Engage children with experiences and activities that have multiple and open-ended outcomes. Finally, let them make decisions that may involve some failure, but will support the development of resilience to try a more creative solution. Through projects, after-school activities, and multiple options to demonstrate success, Journeys School students develop a high capacity for creativity. Supported at home with opportunities that are not adult centered and adult created and integrated into an understanding of core content, these skills will serve students well as they move into a rapidly changing world.