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thinking outside the cube: creative fluency

My kindergartners have been exploring patterns. Patterns were introduced in a variety of ways, one of which was using uni-fix cubes. After my students came to the conclusion that a pattern is something that repeats over and over again, they were able to identify a pattern (for example with 2 colors) when they see one. Being able to create a pattern was a whole new experience. My students used their red and blue cubes to design a pattern. Quickly they discovered alternating colors in an “ABAB” pattern was the answer to creating a pattern. Until, a new question came up: “How many patterns can you make with 2 colors?”

You could almost see their minds spinning! Many kids wanted to give up and say there is nothing more they could do. A few kids thought could switch their pattern and alternate the 2 colors in the other order, which technically is a new pattern. Then, one of my thinkers had an idea! I heard him say “I can use 2 reds!” This idea started to catch on and those cubes got to moving! I encouraged my students to “record” their patterns on their paper so they wouldn’t forget the ideas they’ve created.

Creative Fluency is “the process by which artistic proficiency adds meaning through design, art and storytelling.” I’m going to stretch it and say designing with cubes is an art form!

Here’s where I feel the creative thinking really stepped in. One of my students noticed that the American Flag in our classroom has a pattern: red and white stripes. I asked, “Do any of you think there could be more patterns hiding in our room?” My students were so excited to find out. The ideas started flowing: our blue and yellow tile is layed in a pattern, the days of the week repeat over and over on our calendar, the row of “5s” on our 100s chart looks like a pattern, my shirt has stripes, the timer beeps in a pattern… The list went on and on! One girls even said, “Everyday is a pattern! You know, the sun and moon keep switching places over and over again!” Something that really struck me, was that my kids didn’t just notice color patterns, they noticed sound patterns and patterns related to their lives. This was a fun extension to patterning.

To me, creative fluency is being able to “think outside the box” because when you can think differently and on your own, you can take ownership of your ideas and creations. I felt that my students showed a sense of creative fluency with this because they did not just need the initial red and blue cubes. When we out to recess, they were on the look out for outdoor patterns. While some kids noticed color patterns on the “big toy”, other kids picked up leaves and put them in a pattern. It all works for me! All I did was let them explore their interest in patterns and facilitate the discussions. Certainly for all ages, and most definitely in Kindergarten, I feel it is crucial to allow kids to think on their own, even when it sounds silly, and let them go as far as they can.

This kind of thinking will hopefully turn over into the creative thinking for problem-solving. One of students last week couldn’t seal an envelope, when he saw that my tape dispenser did not have tape, he went and found a sticker to seal the envelope. I found that to be very creative thinking and he didn’t even ask for my help on how to solve his problem. My hope is that all of my students will develop this kind of thinking.

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Creative Fluency

from http://www.fluency21.com/fluencies.cfm:  “Creative Fluency is the process by which artistic proficiency adds meaning through design, art and storytelling. It regards form in addition to function, and the principles of innovative design combined with a quality functioning product.Creative Fluency extends beyond visual creative skills, to using the imagination to create stories, a practice which is in demand in many facets of today’s economy. It is widely regarded by many successful industries that creative minds come up with creative solutions.There is tremendous value in the artistic creation of items in order that they may transcend mere functionality.”

So today I introduced my students to their creative project for the semester: Build Your Own Utopia. I thought this would be something fun for them–a chance to flex their imagination muscles but still demonstrate an understanding of the ideas we’ve been discussing all semester long. Yet I heard over and over again from students: “This is HARD!” or “This requires me to think!” (insert shocked expression). The assumption on their part was that something creative should be easy and thoughtless. Maybe one way of understanding this is by looking at the difference between imagination and creativity.

Oklahoma‘s recent National Creativity World Forum 2011 (www. stateofcreativity.com), explains on their website that “ Imagination is the capacity to conceive of what is not yet present or manifest. Creativity is imagination applied (“imagination at work”) to do or make something that flows from the prior capacity to conceive of the new.” My students have imagination (they can come up quickly with some off the wall zany idea never heard of before), but when it comes to applying that imagination (creativity) they realize that its not enough to just come up with an idea, it has to be made meaningful and requires a lot of problem solving that they didn’t anticipate.

I’ll let you know how it goes.