Creativity. Innovation. These are current buzzwords in both business and education. As economies strive to compete in a global, digitalized world, the call for creative thinkers and innovative makers has become part of our collective thinking about what we want for our children. Ken Robinson, in his famous TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (40 million views and counting), urgently argues “that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” In other words, creativity and innovation are now considered a necessary part of every child’s upbringing.
But what does that mean, exactly? What does it look like when we take Robinson’s call seriously, when we—grown-ups charged with supporting children in their learning and living—treat creativity with as much commitment as we do reading and writing, as well as math and science and other knowledges that we consider vital to the human experience? What kinds of spaces will we create for children, and what do we hope children will do when we invite them there?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist best known for developing the concept of “flow,” writes of Vittorino da Feltre, an educator living in 15th century Italy. As a condition of becoming a tutor for a politically influential family, Vittorino opened a school for other children of the Lombardy region. According to Csikszentmihalyi, Vittorino saw connections between creativity and enjoyment and sought to instill those qualities in the learning experiences that took place in his school, which he named La Gioiosa—The Joyful Place.
But Csikszentmihalyi doesn’t leave Vittorino’s story lodged in the history of Italy. Instead, he challenges educators to bring such thinking into 21st century places of higher education.
“But how can the joy of learning be instilled in modern universities?…First, making sure that teachers are selected in part because they model the joy of learning themselves, and are able to spark it in students; second, that the curriculum takes into account the students’ desire for joyful learning; third, that the pedagogy is focused on awakening the imagination and engagement of students; and finally that the institution rewards and facilitates the love of learning among faculty and students alike” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2006, p. xx).
The question of how to cultivate children’s creative and innovative thinking is at the heart of the MACIE program. Also at its heart is a belief in joyful learning and the stance that for adults to awaken the imagination of students, their own imaginations have to be awakened as well. That includes faculty who are immersed in the joy of learning and who strive to design spaces for adults that can lead to creativity, innovation and, yes, enjoyment. In this way, we are here to support adults who want to do the fulfilling and necessary work of helping children grow to lead joyful and creative lives.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2006). Foreword: Developing creativity. In N. Jackson, M. Oliver, M. Shaw, & J. Wisdom (Eds.), Developing creativity in higher education: An imaginative curriculum (pp. xiii-xx). New York, NY: Routledge.