A creative classroom is one in which all the elements of creativity (space,
time, light, color, movement, sound, line, shape, form, rhythm, pattern and
texture) are arranged to provide an optimum learning environment for
whatever is being studied. (See "The Elements of Creativity," PLAYMAKER
SERIES 2000, Teaching Curriculum Through the Arts.)
It is a place in which all learning modalities are addressed and where each
child is guided and encouraged to exercise his or her innate curiosity, to
experience the thrill of discovery, and to share what is learned in ways
that allow the joy of individual expression.
In a creative classroom, the arts become teaching and learning tools,
designed to involve the students' senses, their feelings, and their
bodies -- as well as their intellects.
Music plays a crucial role in the lives of young people. It influences how
they think and feel, what they purchase as young consumers -- even, quite
often, their selection of friends and acquaintances. They are exposed to
powerful, persuasive music on the radio, in TV commercials, on CDs and
through film scores.
The judicious use of music in the creative classroom can either calm or
excite their active minds, introduce them to musical forms, perhaps not
readily accessible to them outside their school environment, help them to
better understand historical periods and cultures other than their own, and
create moods in the classroom appropriate to the subject matter at hand.
Visual Arts are more subtle, but equally potent in their influence.
"Seeing is believing" is more than just an aphorism; it is a statement
psychological fact. If you see an illustration depicting how a Native
American of a particular tribe was dressed, for example, you tend to
believe it is so. If you see a character dressed as Darth Vader, you are
likely to associate that character with evil. TV, newspaper and magazine
advertising and, of course, movies inevitably form a child's perceptions of
what the world is like and how he or she might be part of it. Make no
mistake! Whatever visual images a child looks at for six hours a day in
the classroom will stay in his or her subconscious mind for a lifetime.
Dance. Rhythmic body movement has been an integral part of every culture
since time immemorial. Dancing the hora, the minuet, the Mexican hat dance
or the square dance can teach things about the respective cultures that developed those dances in ways nothing else can. Depicting scientific
systems (the solar system, the water cycle, photosynthesis, the water cycle), interpreting environments and events, learning mathematical
patterns of dance steps -- all can teach the bodies of children and thus
reinforce concepts the mind is asked to grasp. In a creative classroom,
individual and team sports, even playtime at "recess," are taught with
Theatre, seen as a synthesis of all the arts, offers students the
opportunity to experience the feelings of people, places and events and to
communicate those feelings to others. Role-playing is an essential part of
any creative classroom and can both motivate students and help them to
experientially learn more about themselves, one another and the world. For
thousands of years, theatre was acknowledged as far more than just "popular
entertainment." Rather, it was recognized as a way to articulate for
masses issues that deeply concerned them. In many places around the world,
it still serves that function. The best filmed plays and the most enduring
plays on stage give us understandings that enrich and, in some cases, can
transform inner lives. Such a potent teaching tool belongs in a creative
QUESTION FROM A TEACHER
"Assuming that I want to develop a creative classroom in my teaching of
American Independence, how do I start?"
Any number of ways. For instance, one morning immediately after the
recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, ask your students to move their
chairs in a circle or leave their seats and gather together on the floor or
simply to remain standing -- anything to break the daily routine, to go
against their expectations -- to get their attention!
Then, ask them about the pledge they have just recited. What does it mean?
What is a "pledge?" What is "allegiance?"
What is a "state" and how many united states are there in America?
How many can they name? What is a "Republic?" A
"nation?" What does the phrase "under God" mean?
Why "indivisible?" Just exactly what is "Liberty?"
"Justice?" Does "for all" include them? And
everybody else in America? Why do they and millions of other students all
over the country say these same words every morning for 12 or 13 years every day
that school is in session?
What about the American flag? Why is there one in every classroom?
How many stars are there on the flag and why? What do the thirteen stripes
represent? What do the colors red, white and blue represent?
Regardless of the age or maturity of your class, such questions should
stimulate a lively discussion!
You might ask them to look around the room to find other symbols of America
(e.g., the great seal and a picture of George Washington are on a one dollar
bill, a symbolic object certainly familiar to every student).
Play recordings of "The Star Spangled Banner," My Country 'Tis of
and/or "America the Beautiful" and discuss what the words mean.
What do the second verses of each of those songs say about America that is not
expressed in the first verse? Do they all have second verses? More
two verses? Why? Or why not? If the song "America the
written to a country, in what kind of song might the country answer back?
You might post parchment replicas of the Declaration of Independence and the
Preamble to the U.S. Constitution that your class can discuss, write about, illustrate or act out.
In answer to your students' question (spoken or unspoken) "Why do we have
to learn about America?" your answer could be:
"Because you are Americans. And because ours is a government of the
people, by the people and for the people, if there's something you don't
like about it you have the power to change it -- no matter how old you are,
whether you're male or female, regardless of how much money you have or don't
have, regardless of race, color or what you believe in.
But you can't take part in your government, you can't do anything about
your life as an American unless you know how America works and how it got to be
the way it is."
You might, when you're ready to introduce curriculum content start with a couple
of simple facts:
"The land we call 'America' was named after Americus Vespucius, an Italian
explorer who lived at the time of Columbus." And "Many of the native inhabitants called it 'Turtle
Note: Any good encyclopedia will provide supportive information for these
facts. Then pick a curriculum objective; for instance, an introduction to
the life of the Native American Indians. How can you convey the
information your students need to learn through visual art? Pictures in
textbooks and posters are helpful; so is having the children draw pictures of
the image further. Extrapolate. What about taking them on a field
trip in the woods, of having them bring natural objects from home:
feathers, shells, dried weeds, colorful stones? Then have them create
jewelry or articles of clothing for themselves, just like the Native Americans
did. Or bring an old sheet from home and build a small tipi in one corner of
your room. Let each child choose an Indian name from nature (a combination
of an adjective and noun usually work, such as "running deer,"
"bright feather," or "whispering wind"). Stretch the
image by naming themselves in contemporary terms, e.g., "Nose in
Book," "TV Watcher," etc. Have them create a visual symbol
for that name and paint it on the tipi.