We can't all be Van Gogh - and we shouldn't try to be!

E. Paul Torrance, American psychologist, talks about what he calls the "4th-grade slump" in the creative lives of children. When children begin school, they are generally quite happy to show their creativity in all sorts of ways. But by the time they get to about Year 5 they are often more conforming, less apt to be original and spontaneous.

Why is this? What are we doing with the creativity of our students? 

One thing that concerns me in some classrooms is the tyranny of the template. An example of this could be where the students have all coloured in patterns given to them by the teacher. A variation on this theme – everyone is asked to copy a famous artwork. Van Gogh’s sunflowers, for example, seems to be a perennial favourite. How on earth do these activities foster creativity? 
More importantly, what else can be done to foster it? One initiative that is quietly going about its work in promoting artistic creativity are the New Zealand Children's Art House Clubs. These operate after school hours providing for the individual artistic experience of children. 
Each Children's Art House contributes to its community. An example of the positive contribution made by one of them is in the town of Opotiki where the youth there have been involved in planning and painting a series of murals around the town on themes expressing time and place, gathered from their own research, and meeting with local community members and historians.  This mural project is a great indicator that the youth of Opotiki are very much present and contributing. A unique and positive relationship has developed between the youth and the public of Opotiki since the arrival of the mural project. A spin-off from this relationship shows up in police records of youth vandalism and graffiti: significantly declined since the murals were started. This project has created a shift in the town’s perception of young people and a corresponding sense of belonging in its young citizens.
Somehow, I can’t imagine the youth of that town getting too excited about being told to colour in a bunch of templates. But give them some license to be creative and they certainly delivered. What is the message in this for us as teachers?
Jeremy Bloomfield
Accent Learning
28 October 2015