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Is Creativity THE 21st Century Skill?

Janet Stanford

YES is the answer to this question judging from the enthusiastic audience response on October 10 to Imagination Stage’s Creative Conversation on the topic.

One hundred and forty parents, educators, and other stakeholders attended a panel discussion, moderated by Doug Herbert of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Innovation & Improvement, and then enjoyed breakout sessions that included sample sessions in professional development for teachers, creative parenting classes, and an opportunity to take the Torrance Test, the only nationally recognized measure for creativity that has been in use for more than 50 years.

Each of the four panelists described their viewpoint about creativity during the forum.

Developmental Psychologist Meredith Rowe debunked the commonly held assumption that creativity is a gift which cannot be taught.

Neuropsychologist Bill Stixrud spoke about what he sees daily in his clinical practice: that kids today enjoy less free play, feel more stress, are less motivated, and have lower self-esteem than past generations. His findings parallel data from the Torrance Test, which has noted a sharp decline in children’s creativity scores over the last 20 years, especially in the elementary grades. Stixrud recognizes that children are missing the benefits of creative play and arts education.

I discussed how theatre arts classes and arts integrated into the school curriculum can help children of all abilities to find motivation for their studies. Projects that are student-led and focused on creative problem solving have been shown to engage young people in ways that traditional modes of instruction no longer can.

Entrepreneur and TeaEO of Honest Tea Seth Goldman spoke about how creative thinkers are what the country needs in order to stay competitive in a global economy. His own company initially found success by tapping into current trends among consumers for healthier and more sustainable options.

During the Q & A session, members of the audience expressed their concerns about what has been called the  “Creativity Crisis” in America and asked the panelists about ways in which the community can work to improve schools and supplement children’s education with new creativity initiatives.

Imagination Stage is pleased to be doing its part to promote creativity through our own programming and in the schools where we work.

The St. Catherine of Siena School won a free Creativity Professional Development session for its staff by having the most participants in the audience. Imagination Stage is keen to offer this service to other schools as well as providing comprehensive Creativity Days for interested groups.

In addition, Imagination Stage is offering Creative Parenting classes for parents and new post-show activities in creativity for children attending its professional theatre, starting this fall.

We are also answering the call for research data about how the arts impact young people from the National Endowment for the Arts by offering Torrance Testing to anyone and everyone in our [Bethesda, MD] community. The next opportunity is right around the corner on November 11 .

To see what’s next for Imagination Stage’s Creativity Initiative visit our website.

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the Imagination Stage site and the forum was one of a number of Creative Conversations held throughout the country during the month of October in honor of National Arts and Humanities Month.)

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