7 Keys to Creativity

When we think about creative people, we tend to think of artists, writers, painters, and the like, but creativity is an essential part of almost everything we do. Whether it is figuring out the best bridge design to span a river or cooking dinner for our family, the opportunity to be creative is always there. So how do you help your child foster their creativity?

Creative thinking expert Michael Michalko spells out his seven tenets of creative thinking, the seven things he wishes he were taught as a student. Helping your child learn these lessons can help them (and you) be a more creative person.

  1. You are creative. Everyone creates, especially as a child. It is only as we get older that we begin to think of ourselves as creative or not. The main thing that identifies creative people is that they believe they are creative, and so they develop their abilities to express themselves.
  2. Creative thinking is work. Thomas Edison once said that genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. Being creative requires dedication to developing new ideas, most of which will be bad. What separates great photographers from the amateurs is that the great ones take many, many more pictures. Every great movie leaves piles of footage on the cutting room floor.
  3. You must go through the motions. Our brains build connections as we do and learn things, and the more that we do those things, the stronger the connections become. Working to come up with creative ideas increases your ability to be creative. Creative ideas don’t come to you. You have to go chase after them, and the more you chase, the better you’ll be at catching them.
  4. Your brain is not a computer. Our brains don’t really separate fact from fiction. It is why a good book can transport us to another place. It is why we feel the same exhilaration as Luke Skywalker when the Death Star blows up and cower in our seats during a scary movie. Imagining is an essential part of creativity. Walt Disney called the creative people working on his movies and parks imagineers, a portmanteau of imagination engineers.
  5. There is no right answer. Little kids tend to think of things as black or white, but as adults we know there are many shades of gray in between. When trying to create new ideas, it is essential to not evaluate them as they come to us. Every idea is a possibility, so you should generate as many as possible before figuring out if they are any good or not. Edison himself thought of 3,000 different lighting system ideas before he even began to evaluate whether they would work or not.
  6. There is no such thing as failure. If you don’t succeed, you still have produced something. What’s important is what you learn from what you produced, even if it didn’t work. As author Neil Gaiman said in his commencement address at the University of the Arts in 2012, “I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, ‘Coraline looks like a real name…’” Coraline is, of course, one of his most famous children’s books as well as a successful movie.
  7. You don’t see things as they are—you see them as you Experiences don’t have meaning until we give them meaning, and the meaning we give them depends on where we are in life and what we believe to be true. Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, which made mainframe computers, famously said that there was no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak saw the same industry through a different lens, and now most of us not only have computers in our homes but also in our pockets and purses. Creative people realize that we construct our reality by how we interpret our experiences.

By keeping these seven keys in mind, we can help our children become more creative, supporting them when they get discouraged and encouraging a growth mindset.

Photo courtesy Max Pixel.

Plan Your PTA Take Your Family to School Week Event Now

tn-2017-tyftsw-social3Founders’ Day, February 17th, celebrates the legacy and work of Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Selena Sloan Butler to improve the lives of children. The date marks the first National Congress of Mothers, held in Washington, D.C. in 1897. As part of that celebration, National PTA designates the week that includes Founders’ Day as PTA Take Your Family to School Week.

This year, PTA Take Your Family to School Week is February 13-17, and the theme is Celebrating the Changing Faces of Families. Research shows that families engaged in their children’s education results in greater student success, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, or parents’ level of education. PTA Take Your Family to School Week provides PTAs with an opportunity to engage the families at their school in their children’s education. It also promotes your PTA and the work you do in your school, which can lead to more families joining your PTA to support that work.

Now is the time to think about how your PTA will bring families into your school building. Do you want to provide the opportunity for families to share a meal with their children, either before, during, or after school hours? Will you work with your principal to provide families the chance to participate or observe in the classroom? Do you have no idea where to start?

If your PTA isn’t sure where to start, both National PTA and Illinois PTA have resources to help you host a fun, pre-planned event for the families at your school.

National PTA also has an invitation letter to send to families and specially-sized graphics for your PTA to use on social media to help you promote your event. Plan your event now to celebrate PTA Take Your Family to School Week.

The New Illinois Arts Learning Standards

IALS_Logo_FINAL_ for AAI CaroseulIllinois has been revising its learning standards from the old 1997 standards to encompass what our children need to know to be successful in the 21st century. New standards for Math, English/Language Arts, Science, Social Science, and Physical Education have been revised in recent years. This summer, new Arts Learning Standards have been adopted and approved.

The new Arts Learning Standards were created by Illinois educators in an 18-month process coordinated by Arts Alliance Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). These new standards reflect the needs of Illinois students, incorporate best practices in arts education, and honor the diversity of school districts across the state. The new standards recognize the role the arts play in developing critical thinking, effective communication, broad-based collaboration, and creative problem solving.

The new standards will be in effect for the 2018-2019 school year and focus on five areas:

Each of these five focus areas have standards tied to creating, producing, responding, and connecting with the arts.

As part of the process of developing the new standards, an interactive website was created to provide information and resources on the New Illinois Arts Learning Standards, including a comprehensive report on the process of developing the standards. With these new standards, Illinois becomes a national leader in arts education.

News from National Convention—Plan Your PTA Year with National PTA Programs

PTA Convention 2016 LogoOne of the major benefits of having a PTA is being able to take advantage of National PTA’s numerous free turn-key programs. A workshop at the 2016 National PTA Convention spelled out how PTA leaders can plan their entire PTA year using these programs. By taking advantage of these programs, PTAs can easily and effectively:

  • Address important issues in their school
  • Support the school’s education goals
  • Engage families in the school and PTA
  • Grow their membership

School of Excellence

Based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the School of Excellence program helps PTAs partner with their school to welcome families and empower them to support student success. PTAs choose to focus their family engagement efforts on one of three topics: Education, Health and Safety, or the Arts. The program uses a Family-School Partnership Scan to develop a family engagement improvement plan tailored specifically to your PTA and school. The survey is repeated at the end of the year to document the improvements that your PTA has accomplished.

The timeline for the School of Excellence program is:

  • Enroll your PTA in the program between April 1, 2016 and October 1, 2016.
  • Complete your Family-School Partnership Scan by December 1, 2016 to receive your customized Roadmap to Excellence.
  • Complete the National PTA School of Excellence application before June 1, 2017.
  • Celebrate your excellence! All National PTA School of Excellence recipients receive a toolkit to support celebration activities.

The School of Excellence program has documented its success in making all families feel welcome, helping schools communicate effectively, and more. Sign up today to start your PTA on the path to excellence!

Reflections

Reflections is PTA’s longest-running and most widely recognized program, providing over 300,000 students the opportunity to engage with the arts each year. Students enter artwork based on a specific theme at the local level in one of six categories:

  • Visual Arts
  • Photography
  • Music Composition
  • Film/Video Production
  • Dance Choreography
  • Literature

A Special Artist category began a few years ago to include those students who need accommodations to participate in the program.

After judging at the local PTA level, student artwork advances through the council, district or region, state, and national level. National winners are displayed at the US Department of Education and highlighted in an online gallery by National PTA.

The 2016-2017 Reflections theme is “What Is Your Story?” You can find entry forms, tools to run a Reflections program at your school, and much more on the Illinois PTA website. Contact Illinois PTA Cultural Arts Director Joan Scovic at jscovic@illinoispta.org to be added to the Illinois PTA e-mail list for Reflections chairpersons or if you have any questions about the program.

Family Reading Experience

March is National Reading Month, and PTA has the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle ready to help PTAs engage families in a fun event to help them understand the simple ways they can support their child’s core literacy skills for kindergartners through fifth-graders. In addition, PTAs that register their March 2017 Family Reading Experience event by December 1, 2016 are entered into a drawing for free Kindles for their school.

The Family Reading Experience provides PTAs with all the tools they need to promote their event as well as all of the materials needed at the activity stations. There are four different themes available, with materials split between grades K-2 and grades 3-5:

  • On a Safari
  • Under the Sea
  • Out of this World
  • Around the World

The variety of themes lets PTAs rotate the materials from year to year or to have another event sometime other than March. Materials are also available in Spanish to support your school’s English Language Learners.

Take Your Family to School Week

Take Your Family to School Week occurs each February around the founding date of PTA, February 17. This year’s Take Your Family to School Week will be held from February 13-17, 2017. The Take Your Family to School Week Toolkit provides your PTA with ready-to-use event guides to bring families into your school, including a Creative Career Fair, a Multicultural Expo, and other PTA programs highlighted in this article. The toolkit also provides promotional materials in both English and Spanish as well as sample letters to request donations, contact the media, thank volunteers and sponsors, and highlight your event on social media.

Connect for Respect

Connect for Respect (C4R) is National PTA’s initiative to help students, parents and educators to create school climates full of safe and supportive peer relationships. Research shows that one of the most effective ways to prevent bullying behavior is to create a positive school climate. School climate encompasses everything that contributes to a student’s experience with a school—from the physical building to policies, staff and peer culture. Positive school climates exist in schools where students, families and educators all work collaboratively to build a culture of respect.

The Connect for Respect Toolkit guides PTA leaders on ways to engage students in improving the school climate and reducing bullying. The toolkit also includes materials to help build a team, to assess the current school climate, to engage your school community in a dialogue, and to develop an action plan to address the issue. The toolkit also provides links to resources from other organizations on bullying prevention.

Healthy Lifestyles

November is Healthy Lifestyles Month, and PTA has a wide variety of programs available to help PTAs approach this issue. These programs include the Improving Energy Balance Toolkit to help families balance healthy eating and exercise and the Fire Up Your Feet program that helps PTAs raise funds while engaging students and families in physical activity. PTA also provides information to help local PTAs advocate for:

Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship

National PTA collaborated with LifeLock to create The Smart Talk interactive website to help families have conversations about responsible technology use and put their agreed-upon rules into writing. PTA also created a promotional toolkit to encourage families to begin the conversation. The program has been well received, and PTA is now creating a Smart Talk Event Kit that will be available soon to help PTAs host a digital safety event.

Every Child in Focus

National PTA’s Every Child in Focus is a campaign to strengthen family engagement in schools by celebrating the achievements and reporting the disparities within diverse populations and by sharing resources and advocacy tools to help understand the needs of every child. Each month, National PTA spotlights the educational issues surrounding a particular group, highlights their accomplishments, and focuses on ways to help engage families. The campaign is a school-year-long series that provides educators, families, and PTAs with the information they need to deepen family engagement in schools through the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

The campaign reinforces National PTA’s mission to advocate for every child—with one voice—so all families feel invited and welcomed within PTA and are equipped with the tools to support their child and improve the school, which makes a difference for every child. National PTA provides a variety of ways that your local PTA can engage with the campaign. A guide for hosting a leadership event focused on Hispanic students is already available, with event guides for students living in poverty and LBGTQ students coming soon.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week will be May 1-5, 2017, and National PTA has now created an event toolkit to help PTAs celebrate the teachers that are making a difference in the lives of children every day. The toolkit features thank you cards, appreciation certificates, flyers, ready-to-use graphics for newsletters and social media, and messages ready to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

STEM + Families

National PTA’s newest program is the STEM + Families Initiative that was announced at the 2016 National PTA Convention. Created in partnership with Bayer and Mathnasium, National PTA plans to provide 100,000 STEM experiences for families by June 2018. Program details will be coming out over the next few months, but everyone who cares about STEM education can take the STEM + Families Pledge to connect to the initiative and receive more information as it becomes available.

National PTA Back-to-School Kit

The National PTA Back-to-School Kit is now available and provides PTA leaders with ready-to-use information and resources on running a PTA. This year’s Back-to-School Kit is a restricted member benefit, so PTA members will need to register for free access to the kit. Registration is quick and easy, and National PTA has created a short video to describe the registration process. In addition, PTA leaders at the local, council, district, region, and state level that register for the Back-to-School Kit will receive a special membership recruitment packet in the mail approximately three to four weeks after registering.