Creative “I”: Defining Creativity

I chose to interview a fellow teacher, Stephanie Buske, for this part of the Creative “I” project.  Stephanie currently is a fifth grade teacher, but before getting her education degree, she went to drama school and spent time as a singer and actress off Broadway in New York City.  Her husband is also an actor and both are heavily involved in the Madison, Wisconsin theater scene.  Stephanie defines creativity as the ability to take a role, ignore it’s history and previous interpretations and make it uniquely yours.  She says that she does this by trying to find the hook or the connection to the audience member or in her current situation – student.  Steph’s creative process begins with the kernel –  a book, a song, a museum exhibit – that she builds on.  From that kernel, she explores the things that inherently make that thing interesting and uses her words, body and voice to bring that intangible quality to life.  Stephanie also believes that the idea of creativity informs her life every day – as a teacher and mother.  When people ask her if she is still acting, she tells them not on stage, but that she acts all day as a teacher – finding those kernels of interest and using her talents to light fires of inspiration within her students.

Dr. Mishra and his colleagues in the article (Mishra, Henriksen, & the Deep-Play Research Group, 2013) define creativity as being novel, effective and whole.  In my interview, Stephanie also focuses on the idea of making something unique or novel to your interpretation.  For me, that is my biggest struggle in being creative at work.  So much of what I need to focus on such as data, standardized tests, and scripted curriculum do not give any room for novelty or uniqueness.  It is hard for me to incorporate that component into my teaching when everything I do is trying to squeeze it out.  Fortunately, I see a shift coming in my district.  We have new members of the admin
istration team who are encouraging teachers to find that novelty and personal interpretation and bring it back into our teaching.  I find I am at my most creative when I am allowed to have new experiences.  I am lucky in that I live in an area where there are lots of cultural events, museums, and natural areas that allow me to broaden my perspective and indulge in creativity.

Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013). A NEW approach to defining and measuring creativity. Tech Trends (57) 5, p. 5-13.

Advertisements

Patterning

Patterning is our focus in CEP 818 this unit.  Patterning is the ability to recognize and create repeating themes, ideas or structures within a domain or topic.  Simple patterns are easily found, and most complex patterns are merely multiple simple patterns layered on top of each other.

Within the domain of space science, there are many examples of patterning.  Some of them are obvious like the patterns within the constellations :

Star Chart
Image from jpl.nasa.gov

Or the phases of the moon.

Moon Phases
Image from spaceplace.nasa.gov

Some of them are not so obvious like the patterns of elliptical orbits from the moon to the earth to the sun and beyond.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All of these patterns make it easier to understand the grand scale of our universe.  When we look at a sky full of stars, it is helpful to pull out those patterns recognized generations ago to identify specific stars or celestial bodies, and pair them up with the mythological stories that were used to help coordinate the patterns.  The patterns found in the phases of the moon guide us to seeing the relationship between the celestial bodies of the sun, earth and moon as they dance through the sky on their interdependent routes.  The elliptical patterns created by gravitational pull illustrate to us how these rules of science are consistent throughout the known universe.  To me, these patterns help me make the universe smaller and more understandable.

I had more difficulty with the idea of pattern creation than I did with pattern identification on this assignment.  As a result, I took one of the pattern ideas from above and reworked it for the assignment.  The 88 modern constellations that most of us see in the sky are not universal in their inspiration. Over the course of history, other cultures have seen other pictures in the night sky.  That is the basis for my pattern creation.  I took an unlabeled sky map and tried to find patterns on my own.  Here is a portion of my sky map:

repattern

My entire repatterned sky map can be found here.

Thinking of how I teach the stars and constellations, I think that this activity of patterning helps me understand better what it would have been like before the night sky was mapped.  It was overwhelming to look at a sky map – even one with the stars already identified – and try to make sense of it.  It is very much like trying to map grains of sand or leaves on a tree.  I also found that once I stopped trying to force patterns into places I wanted to see them and just let my brain go, the activity turned into an enjoyable one – similar to laying on your back and identifying the shapes in the clouds.  It gave me an appreciation for finding the larger, more distinguishable features and using them as anchor points because those would be the features that would always be most readily recognizable.  The patterns in the sky have always fascinated me and been a focal point of my teaching of astronomy.  Now, I understand why.