Does Creativity Peak At Age Seven?

I have wondered this for a very long time. Is that why adults do not view themselves as creative – it peaked long ago?

This question hits me at home presently. I have a seven year old daughter who is extremely creative. She draws pictures and makes up stories about them, and they are truly original and ingenious. She is heavily into My Little Pony right now, so a lot of times her stories involve ponies that she has drawn. Sometimes they are ponies from the series and sometimes she makes up her own ponies. But the creativity involved in her stories is truly breath-taking.

Since I started becoming interested in creativity, I have wondered why adults feel that they aren’t creative. A few years ago, I was actually one of them. I wondered if I could change my mindset and actually become creative again. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to figure out why.

My research has pointed more and more to education and the way children are taught as being key to why people don’t view themselves as creative. Children are taught as they are sitting at a desk. Younger children are allowed to sit on a carpet sometimes, but for the most part they are sitting. And they are tasked with listening to the teacher talk to them, most of the time. I actually heard one of my daughter’s former teachers call her class “chatter monsters” when they were trying to get their ideas heard over her. And the context of the experience that they were having left much to be desired as well. All of the children were sitting on a carpet that clearly was not big enough for all of them to sit together comfortably. They were packed on this carpet. Needless to say, it took about five minutes for the pushing to stop as the teacher threatened the children with some type of punishment if they did not behave. Then we had the chatter monsters. The teacher handed the children individual whiteboards, markers, and socks to use as erasers, and then told them what to write. Any children who were not writing what she said or were writing when she hadn’t told them what to write or were writing something different than what she said were punished. (The punishment, by the way, was taking away coins that were used to earn a trip to the treasure box on Fridays). There was no creativity involved in the activity and no opportunity for children to express themselves. The whole time that I volunteered that day, it was the same thing. All of the activities were cut and dry with no chance for individual expression. Worksheets and sitting, no talking out of turn, nothing but what the worksheet or the teacher wanted done.

Joseph Berk, in his article about engineers that I featured yesterday, stated that he thought that the rules that are in place during school is what causes creativity to peak so early. While I partially agree with him, rules are needed in society in order to keep things running safely. (We could get into a discussion about government and overreach into society here, but this isn’t the time or the place; we are focused on education. However, if you want to assert your own creativity, we can have a discussion about that in the comments.) There is such a thing as rules becoming too restraining, however, and this can definitely affect creativity. Requiring children to sit together in a tight space without pushing or touching anyone else is simply asking for trouble. Making children learn academic information within a prescribed box (worksheets, flashcards) is a sure way to suck the creativity right out of a child. When children are not allowed to express themselves, and are in fact punished for doing so, they soon learn to not be creative. And since the majority of people feel that creativity peaks at age seven, learning to not be creative happens very quickly – within two years of starting school. With at least eleven more years of school left, creativity would seem to not have a chance.

In thinking about that last sentence, my thoughts ran back to my years in high school. Every high school has their cliques, and mine was no different. But my mind came back to the people that I began to associate with in my later high school years. They were most likely in an extracurricular music class or in drama. They were the ones that drew insanely awesome pictures during class and knew how to not get caught doing it. They had conversations in class, trying to figure out who was the greatest guitar player that ever lived. These were the kids who were creative for creativity’s sake. I envied those kids because their attitude about school was entirely different than mine. I envied the musicians because they were so creative that they could jam and improvise, and I couldn’t. I was strictly and literally a textbook musician, and I was that way when it came to school as well. I still am when it comes to school. But in learning more about different facets of our education system, I have allowed myself to be more creative in the classroom. And this, in turn, has allowed me to let my children be more creative as well.

It has also allowed me to look at my daughter and realize that I need to do everything I can to provide her a place where she can feel free to create her stories and her pictures, to find an outlet for these stories that she seems to spontaneously come up with. She needs to have a place where she can hone that creative skill so that it will not die in the eleven years of school she has left. My older daughter shows me that she still has creativity all of the time, letting me know that I have not failed her in that way – not yet. She is actually planning on becoming an engineer, and I see little pieces of what Joseph Berk was talking about when she talks about her work in her architecture classes. But she is passionate and creative and hopefully won’t lose that as she learns all of the rules and regulations involved in engineering.

And me? My outlet is this blog, and my classroom. I find myself being insanely creative in my classroom, and I have a class of wonderful children whose creativity inspire it in me. It is almost like we feed each other. I enjoy giving them a creative outlet, because in three or four years, when they start elementary school, they may not have that outlet any more. But the more I foster their creative little minds now, the better chance they may have later.

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Lincoln High School in Walla Walla Tries New Approach to School Discipline

I am a huge advocate for treating children with respect. I have done a lot of posts about punishment in the classroom. I have talked on and on about how Conscious Discipline works for me in my classroom. I am even developing my own discipline system geared more toward preschool aged children.

This story caught my eye tonight, and it is well worth the read. It is kind of long, but I want you to see the transformation that this high school made – and why it made it. It contains the science behind the method, and how it works.

Experiences Instead of Academia?

I ran into this video the other day, and it brought to mind a few questions – especially since I had just finished reading the Ken Robinson book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Watch it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

 

 

The interesting thing about this video, to me, is that Stephen Tonti states that those with ADHD have a difference in cognition. I am not arguing that this is or is not the case. I think that he is probably correct, since he has been living with ADHD all of his life. But he talks about how being able to experience many different things in his life enabled him to find out at a younger age than most what he really enjoyed doing – his medium, his element. My point in posting this video is that, wouldn’t it be much more beneficial to ALL children, not just those with ADHD, to provide them with a wide range of experiences so that they can find out about themselves and what their mediums are?

I remember when I was in high school, during my sophomore and junior years, going through somewhat of a crisis because I did not know who I was. I was sheltered and didn’t have a lot of life experience to fall back on in terms of knowing how life worked and what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go when I got out of high school. It is one of the scariest feelings in the world, not knowing who you are or what you are going to do or how to go forward with your life. But all I had really known, as far as school went, was sitting at a desk writing papers. And I was good at that. But I knew that I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. Life isn’t about sitting at a desk writing papers. It is about finding what you really love to do and doing it. It is about living. And I had no idea how to do that.

Luckily I found out, and I found my element. But it took me years. I was in my thirties before I found it and figured out who I was. That is a lot of time that I could have spent being me instead of figuring out me.

After watching this video, it occurred to me that maybe we should be offering all children experiences  that will enable them to figure out who they are and what they love, instead of just sitting them at a desk all day and expecting them to write papers. Stephen Tonti said that he was able to figure out what he loved to do simply because he had the opportunity to do many, many things with all of his energy. Shouldn’t everyone have that opportunity so that they can figure themselves out? Is it fair to expect children or young adults to spend so much time figuring that out? Especially with the cost of higher education these days – stories are told all the time about people who went to get a degree, found out that they didn’t even like doing what it was they got the degree for, and then going back to get a degree in what it was they really wanted to do. It really seems like a huge waste of time and money, when we could be offering children the chance to learn about real life so that they can figure all of this out before they get to that point.

Our education system is so focused on assessments and testing that we have lost sight of what children really need to be learning about: how to live. Yes, math, reading and writing are important when it comes to living a full life, but they are not everything. Offering children experiences could help them learn how to live full, productive lives with as little wasted time as possible.

And I wonder, now that I think about it…do I blog because I know nothing else besides reading and writing? Because that is all I learned earlier in life? I was good at it, remember? That is a depressing thought. I do more than that, though. I teach. I try to offer the children that I teach experiences because I know how beneficial it is to them. I know that they aren’t even worried about their element at the age of two, but at least I can give them as much experience at life as I can. Someone should.