This year’s Earth Day Festival at CCM is focused on encouraging empathy, agency, and action in our community. As part of this family-focused community event, the Education Team is prototyping an innovative drop in workshop for families called Our Blue Whales.
This workshop begins with a short interactive story about a blue whale calf named Lu and her pod (family), and leads directly into a hands-on experiment where visitors can learn about and test different methods to clean oil polluting our ocean.
The workshop ends with a call to action, including local resources and information about ways families can work together to care for all of our Bay Area neighbors (human and non-human alike).
In this blog post, CCM is proud to share the story Little Lu and the Big Blue digitally with all of you. We invite families to draw and create their own ending to this story!
Additional resources to explore:
How can you take action!
The ocean and people are intrinsically linked. Every action we take can help ensure a healthy ocean and healthy planet for all of us for generations to come.
We put together a list of 10 easy ways for you to be environmentally conscious. Not all of them require huge sacrifices to make an impact. In the race for a cleaner environment, we have to remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint.
The 3 R’s
This is the big one. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is a major motto to live by and sets the groundwork for every other tip on the list. The first piece is to limit your production and consumption of non-sustainable materials. Reuse signifies taking those things that are being produced and finding new ways to use them once they have stopped being useful in their original purpose. Recycling happens when the items have met their end of life. Find ways to sustainably shape it into a new product for the future.
BYOB – “Bring Your Own Bag”
California makes this one easy for us, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it once again. Whenever possible, make sure you are bringing and using reusable bags as opposed to single use. Bonus points if your bags are made from natural and recycled products.
Small Scale Farming
This one may require some planning, but if you are able, growing your own food is a fantastic way to cut down on pollution from food production and transportation. You can grow smaller herbs indoors or grow bigger fruits and vegetables outside. If you have a lot more space (and your neighbors are okay with it), you could even keep animals like hens and roosters!
If you can’t farm your own ingredients at home, the next best option is to buy your ingredients from local farmers. This option has many benefits. You decrease the amount of pollution caused by food transportation. Additionally, you put money into your local economy. It’s a win-win!
This is a big one that you always see amongst the upper echelon of the environmentally conscious. It’s a way to get your food waste out of the landfills and give it a job to do. Composting not only reduces the amount of time that your food spends in landfills, but it also helps if you need to give more life to your soil and plants.
Reusable Water Bottles
This one is the easiest. If you drink a lot of water and don’t mind drinking from the tap, you can save hundreds of dollars over a couple months. You can also just as easily buy a filter and refill your water bottle with those.
Waste Free Lunches
Try not to use throw away packaging. Make sure you are always using reusable food containers and bags to ensure that there are no extra plastic and paper products going into landfills.
Lower House Temperature
This one is tough. If you can brave the cold when you wake up or when you get home for work, you can be greener daily. This works in the opposite direction during the warmer months. It can also save you some money on your electric bill! Everybody likes extra money.
Take public transit
Reserve several days throughout the month to take public transit. It is easier to reduce carbon emissions if less people are in individual cars. This is even more true if you are using earth conscious public transit systems.
Walk or ride a bike
Like we said, all of these are easy to implement. They are earth conscious and some of them even provide cost savings. Help us celebrate Earth Day by taking some time to try one of these Green initiatives.
If you want to talk more about the environment with us, we have a Free Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 20th in the courtyard from 11am-3pm. We will be help you make wild seed packets with your kids to plant around the bay area. You can also learn about blue whales and what we can do to clean up their homes. Learn more on our website www.creativity.org/calendar
The SF Film Festival has more films and workshops during their 13 day run than fingers you can count. To make it easier to get through them all, we have created a list of the 8 films and workshops that we think look good for the whole family to enjoy.
We are the Radical Monarchs
This documentary follows the Radical Monarchs which is an Oakland based leadership troop with a focus on ally-ship, social justice, and activism. It navigates how the troop has handled the ever changing political climate of the last couple years. It will take place on Saturday April 13 at 1:00pm. The venue for this film is the Castro Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
Shorts 6: Family Films
Shorts 6 is an assortment of family films from around the world. There are 12 films with an average showtime of about 4 to 5 minutes each. It will take place on Saturday April 13 at 10:00am. It will be located at the Castro Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
Workshop for Kids: Stop Motion + LAIKA’s Missing Link
In this workshop, the creators of the films Boxtrolls and Coraline will give kids a sneak peak behind the scenes of their newest film “The Missing Link.” They will also get hands on experience with how to create a stop motion film. This workshop takes place on Sat. April 13 at 2:00pm. It will be located at the SFFilm Filmhouse. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
Knock Down the House
This documentary follows four women, one of which is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who ran grassroots political campaigns against well known and well seasoned male political figures. You can see it on Saturday April 13 at 7:30pm. It will be played at the Castro Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
A still from Knock Down The House by Rachel Lears, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Shorts 7: Youth Works
Shorts:7 is an assortment of short films by student all over the world. The list is expansive at just over 10 films. The films average about 4 to 6 minutes long. It takes place on April 14 at 12:30pm. You can see it at the Roxie Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
This documentary follows the competitive world of dog grooming. This showing is different in that furry friends are welcome in the theatre. They have to be registered and must sit on the ground, but they do not require a ticket. You can see this documentary on Friday April 19 at 8:45 It is showing at Grand Lake Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
The Elephant Queen
This documentary film follows the journey of a herd of elephants. They are on the lookout for water. The directors lived in Kenya and filmed this herd for four years. It is recommended for children older than 8. Parents should also note that the “circle of life” will be depicted. It takes place on Saturday April 20 at 12:00pm. You can see it at Castro Theatre. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
A still from The Elephant Queen by Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble, an official selection of the Kids program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Janna Deeble.
Workshop for Kids: Creative Poetry + Film
In this workshop, the poetry that your kids create is brought to life through illustration. They will play poetry games and collaborate with other children. It takes place on Sat. April 20 at 1:30pm. It will take place at the SFFilm Filmhouse. Click the photo to buy your tickets.
As far as family films go, these are our picks. However, the festival has a lot more to offer in the way of workshops and films. We recommend taking a look at their site. Don’t forget to stop by the museum before or after your film to do some creating of your own!
Grace Tenhula is the Assistant Program Manager at the Children’s Creativity Museum, and she has a lot to say about where she wants the museum to be soon. We sat down with Grace to ask her a few questions about her role and her life outside of the museum. Read through her interview to learn more about her and the work that she does.
How long have you worked with of CCM?
I was an intern last spring. In total, a little over a year. I loved it. I did it after leaving teaching. I was kind of panicked about wanting to work with kids but I didn’t really want to be in the classroom. It was a great transition.
Why did you join CCM?
I really wanted to be teaching things that were fun and tangible. I was really allowed to do that here and use what I learned while being certified. I was able to see the effect and that was really cool.
What is your current role and how long have you been in it?
Now, I am the Assistant Program Manager. I handle the day to day staffing and scheduling of all of our exhibit spaces. I also do quality checks and make sure that things are running smoothly and that the exhibits are clean
What are your main goals for your the position?
I definitely want to add insights that I had from teaching. I’m lucky because right after my internship, I was hired as an On-Call Educator and and On-Call House Manager. I want to incorporate all that I learned from that portion of the job.
What grades did you teach?
I studied elementary education and became a certified teacher. I was a student teacher for third and fourth grade in upstate New York. When I moved to Oakland, I taught after school for first graders. That was my first time in the Oakland School System. I then got a job as a fifth grade teacher for Oakland Unified School District.
Why did you leave teaching?
There were a lot of reasons. Teaching in Oakland primarily to students of color, I felt I was not an appropriate role model. I also didn’t feel like I had the resources or the ability to be the teacher that I expected myself to be. That’s what drew me to CCM.
What do you love most about CCM?
What has really enticed me to stay time and time again has been the community. Most of my coworkers, especially in the education department, were also interns. That says a lot about how much value is put into growth and becoming the best educator that you can. There is this consensus of wanting to build a community and wanting to reflect on what kind of community we are building.
I love teaching here. I love being able to work with different age groups. I can spend my morning with toddlers and my afternoon with 6th graders. It really allows me to flex my teaching muscle.
What’s your favorite exhibit in the museum?
It’s a tie between Innovation and Animation. I like both because of the collaborative nature. You are also able to make something individual. You get to feel good about your own ideas and have this really structured opportunity to hear other’s ideas.
What does success look like in the museum?
Accessibility is something that is really important to me. I like all the free programming we do with mercy housing and other. I’m really proud to work in an organization that provides so many free field trips. Something I learned while working in the school system is how little art exposure students are getting. It can be difficult to pay for field trips. Working at an institution that is accessible for those other institution is something I am proud of that. More and more of that is something I’d like to see.
Getting out into the community and making sure that we are serving those who are not usually served by museums. I think CCM is already making an effort to do that, but doing more
Who inspires you? Why?
The kids. Especially, the kids I left. Everything I do, I try to think about if it would reach those kids. Would this feel applicable to them? That’s who I want to be teaching to. A lot of that goes into how I facilitate my field trips and how I teach others to facilitate their field trips.
What do you do to stay creative?
I mainly do weaving and fiber arts. There is also some drawing and sketching, as well. I started weaving at a summer camp when I was kid. There was a teacher there and we wove on giant looms. Blanket and scarves and things. Because those are expensive and I have nowhere to put it, I just have a frame that has notches and you weave into. It’s mainly wall hangings or fabric. I just got the loom around Christmas time, so I have been experimenting with fuzz recently.
What was your favorite toy as a child?
I had a doctor kit that I really liked. Besides that, I spent most of my time drawing when i was a kid.
What’s something about you or a fun fact that not many people know?
I’m from DC. I had my gallbladder removed. Those are the main ones, and my weaving is always my go-to fun fact.
What’s the last book you read?
The last one that I remember reading and finishing was called Homegoing, and I loved it. I gave t to my grandpa for Christmas because I loved it so much. It starts in the 16th century. It follows two women who live in Africa. One woman gets captured and the other marries into African royalty. Each chapter is a different descendent in their history. It really lays out the systemic effects of slavery and the slave trade on not only the women taken into slavery, but also on the woman married to royalty. The character development is so good. You would think that if you only get a taste of a character for one chapter, you don’t feel as connected. But each one is so good.
If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Probably, Tortellini. It doesn’t give me a stomach ache. There are a lot of different ways you can change it up with spices. It is also really easy to make.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Energetic. Passionate. Curious.
What are three words you would use to describe the museum?
Creative. Comfortable. Fun.
What are you looking forward to most for the future of the museum?
More people being served. More outreach. More communicating with other museums about how to collaborate with each other and share each others missions.
How often have you let your kids simply play outside on a hot summer day?
Or pick up the scattered bin of legos after a morning of building planes and boats straight from your child’s imagination? Though different in setting and materials, both activities fall under the category of “unstructured play,” or play that resists any formal structure or outcome. Although unstructured play is second nature to the vast majority of children, many adults remain unaware of the rich developmental benefits that come with free play.
I can remember countless summer days during my childhood where I ran over to my neighbor’s house and we ventured outside with our favorite toy cars and a box of colorful chalk in tow, completely free to create as many chalk-drawn race tracks as the afternoon would allow. We would take turns drawing and adding to each other’s creations, running down the sidewalk as we raced our offroad Hot Wheels. Once we exhausted our little cars and ourselves, we would pick up our bikes and set out into the neighborhood, improvising games as we peddled. With such joy and simplicity wrapped up in those days it is easy to feel a wave of nostalgia, and even easier to understand why free play is so crucial during childhood.
This type of experience is exactly what mother of 3 and writer Amanda Rock discusses in her article What is Unstructured Play for Children? (link below), where she highlights the significance of child-led play and how it often leads to creativity and improvisation. And while the term “unstructured play” may be new to some, the practice is ubiquitous in homes across the world. Rock notes that sometimes this type of play is informally referred to as simply ‘letting kids be kids’ or ‘just play.’
In a world filled with structure, especially a child’s world, kids crave the opportunity to engage in activities of their own choosing. “Unstructured play is important for a child because it gives them a sense of freedom and control… It also allows them to learn about themselves, what they like and don’t like, and even make mistakes without feeling any pressure or failure” (Rock). Not only is the child independently electing and engaging in their activity of choice, but they are also developing the skills to persevere and a deeper knowledge of who they are as learners.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been a long-standing proponent of free-play, frequently calling on parents and teachers to expand opportunities for unstructured play. In their 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics Journal entry titled “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds,” the AAP declares that play is “…essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth” and encourages all pediatricians to “…recommend that all children are afforded ample, unscheduled, independent, non-screen time to be creative, to reflect, and to decompress.” Here at the Children’s Creativity Museum, we couldn’t agree more.
Every day at CCM we see the harmony between freedom and creativity that bubbles to the surface when a child takes control of their play. When let loose in our Imagination Lab (with a watchful eye from parents and educators nearby), children are encouraged to pick up the materials and engage in the activities that best suit their creative interests. Whether a child is creating their own unique structures at our magnetic Tegu wall, building creations straight from their imagination with our big blue Imagination Playground blocks, being conductors at the train table, or much more, we know they are exercising and developing their skills of free choice and experimentation. With the majority of our first floor dedicated to opportunities for unstructured play and “Aha” moments of discovery and exploration, the tell tale signs of free-play (including imaginative storytelling and playful self-expression) have become too frequent to count. And when those children come back to the museum for their 2nd, 3rd, or 100th visit, they inevitably build on what they learned during their previous visits, allowing them to dive deeper into their curiosity and creativity.
When thinking about ways to incorporate unstructured play at home, it is important to think about which types of open-ended toys and materials will best encourage imaginative and self-guided play. Here at the museum, we love to include regular building blocks, different types of paper and markers, puppets and dress up clothes, and recycled materials such as empty paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, bottle caps, and much more. Unstructured play time doesn’t require much, and that is where the beauty lies.
All that my friends and I needed during a summer afternoon was chalk, a bicycle, and the freedom to improvise the rest. Beyond any specific materials you choose to provide, what kids need most is simply time and space for free-play at home. It is helpful to set aside time each day or week for children to be in control of their own exploration and play. And you can participate, too! It is important for children to play with others during this time and have the opportunity to share their budding joys and discoveries. And who knows, you just may learn something new about yourself along the way!
To learn more about the wonders of unstructured play, we encourage you to read Amanda Rock’s full article on Verywellfamily.com, and let us know how you’ve been inspired to bring more open-ended free-play into your family’s play time!
About the Author
Leah is an Educator at the Children’s Creativity Museum. In 2017, she graduated from Smith College with a BA in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Spanish. After interning with the Children’s Creativity Museum, she felt inspired and energized to develop her passion for teaching and nourishing creative confidence for all ages. Before returning to the Education team at the Children’s Creativity Museum, she had the opportunity to work with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art as an intern in their Art Studio.
With a background in women’s studies and education, Leah is constantly thinking about how arts and technology education can empower young minds, especially the minds of young girls, to feel confident and excited about their creative potential. She is proud to be part of a community here at the Museum that is dedicated to making sure imagination, creativity, and innovation are accessible to all.
Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:
- Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash
- Photo by Rene Bernal on Unsplash
- Photo by Children’s Creativity Museum
- Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Kelly Garrett is the Visitors Services Manager at the Children’s Creativity Museum, and she is excited for a lot of aspects of the museums future. We sat down with Kelly to ask her a few questions about her role and her wants for the future. Read through her interview to learn more about her and the work that she does.
What is your favorite exhibit in the Museum?
My favorite exhibit is innovation lab where the mystery box challenges are. I always make sure to mention this in my tours. It’s very uniquely CCM. Having to see past the challenge in front of you and making it into the solution is one of the best life lessons were teaching. They then have to present and explain it.
What is the most fulfilling part of working for the Children’s Creativity Museum?
I would say, the interactions. Seeing them grow and have the opportunities to grow further is what I find fulfilling. Seeing them make connections with other members, other teams and other departments. Seeing those inter-departmental moments happen. I find that very fulfilling. Feeling the support of my team in general is also very nice.
What is your role?
I am the visitor services manager. I am responsible for the visitor services team at the front desk. I am responsible for the birthday parties. I am also a liaison for MGM property management in regards to janitorial needs, security needs, and some facility upkeep.
How long have you worked in that role?
I’ve been in the role for three years as of August
What were your main goals for your the position that you are in?
My main focus was to improve the levels of visitor engagement at the front desk. Visitor engagement was definitely something that was always on the mind of the directors. It was always an area in which we would strive to improve on. There were hurdles we had to overcome when I got here. To change around the tone and the atmosphere; that was my main mission.
Have you accomplished those goals so far?
My team are all on the same page as the front line to the front desk. We periodically need to readjust our approach, but we are all making efforts to get there.
How do you envision the role going forward?
Now, my focus is to be welcoming, inclusive and fully support access to all. I want to make sure we are fully supporting access to all. One of our missions is to foster creativity and collaboration within all families and children. My department is the department that focuses on making sure all families that walk through those doors are getting that experience right from the start.
What was your favorite toy as a child?
My Pound Puppy. I still have it. His name is Thomas. He’s a little stuffed animal that looks like a basset hound. It was my favorite.
How often will visitors see you on the floor of the museum?
My team and I have been trained to step in on the floor when necessary. In the beginning, I was far more on the floor than I am now because of it was all on hands on deck every now and then. As my role has grown, I might need to break away. Sadly, I am not as involved in as many of the activities. I do really like doing outreach. I do think we are doing something special and I like to tell people about it.
What are three words you would use to describe the museum?
I would say, welcoming, fun and safe. Yup, welcoming, fun and safe. There is certainly opportunities to have fun. Everyone is welcome, and it is a safe space. It is a place to express yourself and to just be for a few hours.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
I would say friendly. I can be funny. Friendly, funny, and genuine.
What are you looking forward to most for the future of the museum?
I’m really looking forward to us taking things far more in stride and planning more for the future. I’m looking forward to providing opportunities where we are allowing more space in the museum for social justice and To create that environment for people to use our museum as a platform to speak on social issues that are relevant to them. I’m looking forward to partnering with other organizations that are aligned with us and really serving populations that are harder for us to reach.
By Matt Jorge
As a child, the forest in my backyard was so much more than its individual trees, dirt, and babbling brooks. It was the setting of wild and crazy adventures that truly felt alive. A mossy, knotty, felled tree became the long-lost entrance to a secret cave filled with “hidden artifacts” and archaeological wonders. A peculiarly shaped stick became a magic wand that would allow me to freeze and unfreeze time. A tarp hanging from limber tree branches became a hideout from bandits. In this forest, my imagination was enabled to run wild! Little did I know that these opportunities for imaginary play outside were actually critical in shaping who I am today.
Exploratory and imaginative outdoor play has a major impact on the overall health and development of children. Multiple scientific studies find that playing outdoors improves creativity and problem-solving skills, academic performance, social relations, physical health, eyesight, self-discipline, and reduces stress in children. In today’s world of omnipresent screens however, this essential outdoor play is in danger of being forgotten.
According to a recent report by Common Sense Media, children under 8 years of age spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes a day using screens, and that time only increases as they transition into late childhood and teenage years. You may be thinking, “What is the big difference between screen time and outdoor play? As long as children are having fun, what does it matter?” While it’s true that technology can be quite enriching and exciting for children to explore, there are also many limitations in screen-based activities that we should be aware of.
When children are inside watching television they are passive observers, simply consuming the content in front of them. However, when children are outside creating a game/world using their imaginations or building social skills by being physically active with friends, they are active constructors of their entertainment. Creativity is like a muscle; it needs to be used and practiced to be strengthened. The outside world offers limitless opportunities for children to develop creativity, and offers children the chance to explore important subjects such as science, art, and math in engaging and relevant ways.
The Guardian Early Learning Center in Melbourne actively integrates outdoor exploration into their curriculum to allow children a chance to explore these subjects. In one instance, older children found a deceased dragonfly which sparked conversations about life cycles and provided opportunities to study the creature up close and personal. Some students were interested in counting and classifying shapes on the dragonfly’s body, while others drew what they saw. Younger children used these expeditions to explore new sensory experiences, such as feeling different types of soil, smelling freshly cut grass, and crunching crisp leaves. Whether children are developing their senses or engaging in discussions and critical thought about the natural world, there is no limit to what can be learned from the outdoors.
To be clear, screen time is not inherently “bad”. It is a powerful tool with many educational and entertainment options that can spark rich conversation between parents and children. Furthermore, busy parents may provide children with screen time to give themselves a quick break from their hectic routine! Children should not stop using screens all together, and parents should not feel guilty for allowing their children to interact with technology that is relevant for succeeding in the 21st century. Rather, it is important to be aware of the trend of high technology use amongst children, and to recognize the importance of striking a balance between outdoor play and screen time.
A healthy dose of nature is essential for children and has been found to positively impact their academic, social, and physical development. Further, spending time outdoors encourages children to be active participants in their play and practice creativity. In a world where screens are everywhere, remembering to build time for your child to play outdoors is key for their development.
We would love to hear from you, our readers, as well! How does your family find a balance between outdoor play and screen time? What are your favorite memories of playing outside as a child? Share your experiences with the CCM community below & help us learn from one another!
Suggested Outdoor Exploration in an Urban Environment
While you may agree that it is crucial for your children to have opportunities to play and explore outside, it’s not always as simple in an urban environment. Most families do not have access to a private yard in San Francisco or the Bay Area, but there are still many wonderful outdoor opportunities that you and your child can engage in:
- Urban Gardening. Gardening is a simple activity that can get your children exploring and feeling around in the dirt, and can be done just about anywhere. Whether you have a miniature garden on your balcony or a few potted plants indoors, allowing children to get their hands dirty can lead to all sorts of fun. It is never too early to talk about how things grow, sustainability, and the importance of plant life on Earth!
- Local Parks and Playgrounds. San Francisco has many local public parks that are perfect for a weekend visit. Families can explore botanical gardens, walking trails, local wildlife, and much more. Here is a link to information about local parks and open spaces from the San Francisco Recreation & Parks organization.
- Explore Your Neighborhood. Neighborhoods, especially in San Francisco, have many deep cultural roots. A great way to learn more about where you live and have fun in nature is to just walk around and explore! Who knows what you’ll find and how you will use it to learn and play.
Scavenger Hunt. While you are out in nature exploring a local park or your neighborhood, consider making a homemade scavenger hunt to do with your kids! A scavenger hunt full of different types of local animals, plants, community members and landmarks is sure to spark fun conversations and lead to quality time with your child.
Resources and Further Reading
Benefits of Connecting Children With Nature ? Click Here
Common Sense Census 2017 Media Use By Kids 0-8 Report ? Click Here
Guardian Early Learning Center Article? Click Here
About the Author
Matt Jorge is an Educator on the CCM team. He has a passion for innovative informal education. He believes that creativity is a highly important skill that should be practiced and celebrated in all learning environments. His main goal in education is to work towards bridging cutting-edge research and everyday practice to help children learn in the most engaging and enjoyable ways. Matt has earned a Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Outside of the museum, he loves to play and listen to music. A trumpet player by trade, he now is focusing his attention on dj-ing and exploring digital music creation. In addition to music, Matt enjoys hiking, exploring the Bay Area, animated television shows, and ramen… He really loves ramen.
By Maureen (Mo) Weinhardt, Education Manager
One of the worst things I’ve heard come out of an adult’s mouth at CCM:
“No, no, I can’t do it, I’m not very creative. I’ll just help [insert child’s name] instead.”
How have so many adults convinced themselves that they aren’t “creative”? Why do so many people deny themselves the opportunity to participate in fun, hands-on, original forms of self-expression?
Well… I used to be one of those adults. I know from personal experience how this can happen. It was easy and natural for me to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving in students and families, but I had strangely different rules for myself. I was afflicted by something called a “fixed mindset”. Thankfully my work at CCM has helped me internalize a better frame of mind, one that we hope to share with others in our community and beyond.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D. explores how people’s beliefs about themselves (our talents, abilities, intelligence, creativity, etc.) have a direct impact on our success. We become what we believe about ourselves.
For example, I grew up with what is known as a “fixed mindset”. I grew up believing that my intelligence, talents, creativity etc. were static, intrinsic, and could not be improved – only validated and affirmed by others. The limitations I placed on myself were completely unnecessary, and I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.
Well-intentioned parents and teachers often tell children how smart they are instead of praising and reinforcing the skills of effort, growth, or follow-through. For me, this resulted in “smartness” becoming an important part of my identity. The serious downside of this was that any time I came across a challenging activity or subject in school that threatened this part of my identity, I would give up easily and move on to something else. I lacked true resilience, and avoided any risk-taking that might threaten my self-image of “being smart”.
Another belief I carried with me from a young age was that I was not creative. I could not draw or paint realistically; I didn’t stand out in art class; I loved to write, but somehow that wasn’t enough for me to identify as creative. By the time I reached adulthood, I had absorbed a very narrow definition of creativity and believed that it was most certainly not part of my identity.
Thankfully, this all began to change when I came to the Children’s Creativity Museum and learned how to intentionally foster a “growth mindset” in myself and others.
A growth mindset is the belief that every person’s abilities, intelligence, creativity and more can be cultivated and improved. Although I was a powerful advocate of this belief in others, I did not actually believe that it was true for me too. My first year at the museum was very eye-opening!
People with a growth mindset are not afraid of failure. They thrive on challenge, growth, and learning from mistakes. They embrace the process of learning over the product. They fail forward, learning and improving every step of the way.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas Edison
One of my favorite examples of this mindset is a young boy named Audri, who created a Rube Goldberg monster trap. I first saw this in a professional development training at the museum called Failing Forward – this video is worth watching! Audri embodies the growth mindset, and is a remarkable example of what Educators aim to nurture through our interactive exhibits and hands-on programming at CCM.
CCM’s educational philosophy revolves around a simple yet potent learning process:
Imagine – Create – Share.
These elements are active in all of our educational programming and interactive exhibit spaces. The ultimate goal of our ed philosophy is to develop creative confidence, which we define as:
“Having the freedom and courage to fail/take creative risks, and the knowledge that all of the ideas you create have value.”
This goal is not just for the children who visit our museum – it is for all of the adults as well! (After all, how can we teach things to others if we can’t do it ourselves?) Building your own creative confidence, and nurturing it in the children you love, requires a growth mindset. To help you move in that direction, here are three ways to unleash your own creativity and help kids do the same:
- Notice your mindset. Are you opting out of something because you’re afraid of making a mistake? Are you speaking negatively about yourself, saying “I can’t” or “I’m not good at [math/art/whatever]?” The first step is simply noticing what your habits of mind are. If you’re not aware that you’re limiting yourself, there’s no opportunity to do things differently or take a creative risk. Also – and this is important – when you say such things around children, they often absorb the same limitations.
- Make experiences fun & collaborative. Stay light-hearted! Learning is a process and mistakes are a crucial part of that process – not something to be feared. It also helps to do activities/projects with others, making it a shared experience. Playful moods are contagious, and make it easier to laugh and take risks. You have the power to set this tone for yourself, essentially giving others (children and adults alike) permission to do the same.
- Focus on the process over the product. Whether you’re creating a stop-motion animation movie, learning to code robots, doing a science experiment, or making a sculpture, the journey is far more important than the destination. That is where real learning and bonding happens. Don’t lose sight of this: it’s the process of Imagine – Create – Share that truly builds creative confidence, not the end result.
If you intentionally practice these three things, you will begin to notice a shift toward a growth mindset – one that I have found to be deeply rewarding. This has not only helped me recognize my own creative potential; it has profoundly impacted my work in education and the positive impact I can have on others.
Test this for yourself and see what happens. Instead of “I can’t”, try saying “I’m not sure how to do this, but let’s give it a try!” What do you notice? What happens when you’re aware of your mindset, intentionally more light-hearted and collaborative, and focus on the process over the product? I’m excited for you to find out. Share your stories, observations, and photos below in the comments – help us learn from one another!
Watch this TED Talk by Carol Dweck to learn more about the growth mindset.