Creative Thoughts About Creativity #7

3 09 2009

Picture1There’s no future in believing something can’t be done.  The future is in making it happen.

TRW advertisement

 It’s always fun to do the impossible.

Walt Disney

 Dixie Cups, Life Savers…were conceived, failed and reborn thanks to ingenuity, enthusiasm and determination.

Michael Gershman

 If an idea does not appear bizarre, there is no hope for it.

Niels Bohr

 No idea is born perfect.  Give it a chance to grow.

Rapp Collins Marcoa

 Truth emerges from the clash of adverse ideas.

John Stuart Mill


 The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

John Maynard Keynes


Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.

Benjamin Franklin


99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

George Washington Carver


A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes


Initiative can neither be created nor delegated.

It can only spring from the self determining individual,

who decides that the wisdom of others is not always better than his own. 

   R.  Buckminster Fuller


Intelligence is not what you know….but what you do when you don’t know what to do

                   Jerome Bruner


The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.

   Brendan Francis


Those who have no fire in themselves cannot warm others.



Being bored is an insult to oneself.

Jules Renald


Most students treat knowledge as a liquid to be swallowed rather than as a solid to be chewed, and then wonder why it provides so little nourishment.

Sydney Harris


He who slings mud generally loses ground.

           Adlai Stevenson

Helping Children Discover Their Interests

31 08 2009

b y S a l l y M . R e i s

Sally Reis, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut where she serves as a Principal Investigator at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She is a former teacher and is a member of the NAGC Board of Directors.

For over 10 years, I worked in a school district as the coordinator of a K-12 enrichment program, and during this time the most frequently asked questions by parents of children with high potential related to how they could help their child develop his or her abilities. After 20 years of conducting research about talented young people, I am more firmly convinced than ever that the answer lies in actively seeking to identify your child’s natural interests and then spending time with your child to develop those interests. From the current success of Tiger Woods in golf to the research completed by educator Benjamin Bloom on talent development in young people, we have learned that when a child has both an interest and a talent in the interest area, that talent can be developed with the help of involved and committed parents and diligent teachers.

Some Background Research

Many different research studies demonstrate that learning is enhanced when a child is able to work in an area of his or her own selection and when interests become a major part of learning. Cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget argued that all intellectual functioning depends on the essential role played by “affective” processes such as interest. He used the term “energetic” to describe the relationship between intellectual functioning and affective processes. Other researchers believe that interests interact with personality and that it is within interest areas that the individualized and creative components of one’s personality emerge. Cognitive theorist H. Gruber postulates the “self construction of the extraordinary,” indicating that the main force in learning is a person’s own activities and interests. Gruber points out that the way a person shapes a creative life may involve the pursuit of interests rather than achievement in school or precocity in intellectual tasks.

As a parent, it is a good idea to think about your own interests and the ways you model your pursuit of these interests. Perhaps major interests you held in childhood have developed into the work you now do. If so, talk to your child about the importance of enjoying your work and pursuing your interests so he or she begins to understand the critical link between interests and future careers. These questions may help you consider current interests:

Do you have hobbies or interests that your child has watched you pursue?

Do you spend time reading books about a certain topic or interest area?

What type of creative work do you do in your spare time?

Help your child understand that you also have interests and pursue some of these together. Actively pursing interests together will provide the best possible role modeling and help your child learn that interests both enrich life and guide future career decisions.

How to Spark and Nurture Interests

If your child does not seem to have interests at the present time, there are numerous ways to spark interests. The best way is to show an interest in your child’s school experiences and in what he or she has been doing, reading, and watching on television. Ask questions and work to maintain communication about what your child is doing in school and at home. Trips to museums, art galleries, libraries, zoos, and musical and theatrical performances can all help to develop interests. Library books about a variety of topics can help you ignite potential interests in your child. Magazines cover numerous topics and offer enrichment opportunities to spark children’s interests. The same goals can be accomplished by high-quality video tapes, films, and television shows such as those available on the Discovery, Learning, and History Channels.

Once your child discovers areas of interest, you can help develop and nurture those interests. In the case of a child interested in history, you can encourage him or her to read historical fiction as well as nonfiction books including biographies, autobiographies, and other historical works. As a family, you can visit historically significant sites, the state historical society, or historical libraries. Local historical societies often have ideas for projects, such the University of  Connecticut have learned that the single best predictor of college majors and career choices made by talented youngsters has been their intensive involvement in self-selected projects based on their interests. We found that very young children with high levels of interest in computers, mathematics, or science often retain their interests even when they are encouraged by parents and teachers to do other things in order to be “well-rounded.”

Educational psychologist Joseph Renzulli defines giftedness as the interaction between above-average (but not necessarily superior) ability, task commitment, and creativity. Renzulli asserts that we develop giftedness in young people by enabling them to bring ability, commitment, and creativity to bear upon an area of intense interest.

Identifying Your Child’s Interests

How do we find and develop intense interests in young people?

Some general areas of interest usually found in children include performing arts, creative writing and journalism, mathematics, business management, athletics, history, social action, fine arts and crafts, science, and technology.

In 1977 Renzulli developed the Interest-a-Lyzer, an instrument designed to help young people identify their interests. This brief questionnaire also enables parents and teachers to learn more about their children’s interests and opens up communication between the child and his or her parents and teachers. My Way, An Expression Style Inventory, is a brief questionnaire designed by Karen Kettle to help parents and teachers learn more about how a child likes to pursue his or her interests based on the following ways of expressing interests: written, oral, artistic, computer, audio/visual, commercial, service, dramatization, manipulative, and musical. A 7-year-old who develops an interest in dinosaurs may not want to write a book about dinosaurs, but may be interested in constructing a diorama or a model of his or her favorite dinosaurs. Using My Way, students indicate their level of interest by channeling their interests into certain types of products such as designing a computer software project, acting in a play, writing stories, or filming and editing a video. For example, a 10-year-old boy with a learning disability, who is very bright but has not been doing well in school, recently completed My Way. His profile indicated that his preferred method of learning involved doing audio-visual, computer, and artistic work. The products he most frequently completed in school consistently involved written and oral work. That his preferred method of learning and the projects he completed in school did not mesh may be one important reason he was not doing well in school. The questions on the Interest-A-Lyzer and My Way are almost all open-ended or require simple check marks to complete. A few sample questions from the Interest-A-Lyzer follow. Try these out on the whole family and compare responses.

“Imagine that you have become a famous author of a well-known book.

What is the general subject of your book?

What will it be about?

What would be a good title for your book?”

“Imagine that you can spend a week shadowing any person in your community to investigate a career you might like to have in the future. List the occupations of the persons you would select.”

“Imagine that a time machine has been invented that will allow famous people from the past to travel through time. If you could invite some of these people to visit your class, who would you invite?”

One 8-year-old-girl’s response to the last question included Harriet Tubman, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Lee Harvey Oswald. It seemed clear that she had history as a primary area of interest, and when asked about Lee Harvey Oswald, she explained, “I don’t believe what people say happened in Dallas really happened, and I’d like to ask Oswald a few questions.”

Teachers also have developed simple questionnaires to help you identify your child’s interests. Many school districts use these parent inventories of children’s interests for planning enrichment experiences that will help develop interests. Sample questions follow. Think how you would answer these about your child.

• Describe any collections or hobbies your child has.

• What are your child’s pastimes at home or after school (trips, lessons, clubs, groups, etc.)?

• Has your child discussed any career interests with you? If so what?

• Have you noticed any talents or unusual interests, skills, or accomplishments at home?

• What types of books or television shows does your child choose to read or watch?

If you want to support your child’s interest you can work collaboratively on projects or research topics with your youngster. In addition to reading nonfiction books and visiting interesting places, children can also use “mentors-in-print” or how-to books to develop their interests in

an advanced and authentic way. Methodological books can help children learn how to do work in an area as junior professionals. If a student has an interest in history, some excellent how-to books in history include How to Trace your Family Tree (American Genealogical Research Institute Staff, 1973), How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies (Zimmerman, 1992), My

Backyard History Book (Weitzman, 1975), and Pursuing the Past (Provenzo, Provenzo & Zorn, 1984.)

Another excellent resource for students in upper elementary grades or middle school who are interested in history is History Day, a competition sponsored by each state historical society. In this annual event, students pursue topics of historical interest to them in a number of ways: individual or small-group projects, performances, or audio-visual projects, or by writing research papers. Students who are interested in history or social science research can also use The Artifact Box Network (P.O. Box 9402, Bolton, CT 06043; phone: 860-643-1514).

Teachers work with students to create a box of local artifacts that is exchanged with another class from another part of the country or world. The clues put in the box result in research about the local site as the class tries to identify the location of the artifacts from the classroom with whom they have exchanged boxes. Within each content area, many different ways exist to promote and develop interests. Science, language arts, mathematics and social studies consultants from each state department of education can usually help parents locate various clubs, organizations, or societies that can help children develop interests within these content areas.

The World Wide Web has numerous ways to help students pursue their interests. My own 8-year-old daughter recently developed an interest in hummingbirds and was able to locate a website on hummingbirds that included dozens of resources, recent photographs, and many interesting facts which she used to prepare an alphabet book on hummingbirds. You can help ignite and nurture your child’s interests. In so doing, you unlock your youngster’s high potential and pave the way for enjoyment and success. What more can a parent do?!


As you and your child embark on a journey to uncover and develop your child’s special interests, here are a few questions you can discuss together to help you begin to learn more about your child’s unique interests. To add a creative element to the conversation, pretend you are a reporter interviewing your child for a newspaper article.

1. When you take your child to the bookstore or library, what books would he or she buy or check out (mystery, biography, poetry . . .)?

2. What is your child’s favorite subject (math, science, social studies, language arts . . .)? Describe any specific interests your child has within a subject. For example, if your child enjoys language arts, he or she may get especially excited about creative writing.

3. Describe any lessons your child currently takes or has requested to take.

4. Which clubs, teams, or groups (inside or outside school) does you child belong to or has requested to join?

5. Describe any hobbies or collections your child has or has indicated an interest in starting.

6. Describe any trips your child has especially enjoyed or has requested to take (historical house, aquarium, nature hike, art museum . . . ).

7. What is your child’s favorite game?

8. What is your child’s favorite movie?

9. What is your child’s favorite TV show?

10. Has your child expressed any career interests? If so, what are they?

A Passion for Books

30 08 2009




No matter what his rank or position may be, the lover of books is the richest and the happiest of all.

John Alfred Langford


I have sought for happiness everywhere, but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.

     Thomas A Kempis


It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.

   Victor Hugo


When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before: you see more in you than was there before.

                     Clifton Fadiman


The result of reading is not more books but more life.

      Holbrook Jackson


Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.

          Kathleen Norris 



It is the books we read before middle life that do most to mold our character and influence our lives.

            Robert Pitman


My early and invincible love of reading,…..I would not exchange for the treasures of India.

         Edward Gibbon 


When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue- you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night-there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

               Christopher Morley


The person who does not read good books has no advantage over the person who can’t read them.

               Mark Twain


Every person who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.

                       Aldous Huxley


 The love of reading enables a person to exchange the wearisome hours of life, which come to every one, for hours of delight.



The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend.  When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.

       Oliver Goldsmith


I never remain passive in the process of reading: while I read I am engaged in a constant creative activity, which leads me to remember not so much the actual matter of the book as the thoughts evoked in my mind by it, directly or indirectly.

                                        Nicholas Berdyaev               


My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.

        Abraham Lincoln


We use books like mirrors, gazing into them only to discover ourselves.

           Joseph Epstein


A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age.

      Robertson Davies


It is chiefly through books that we enjoy conversation with superior minds….In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.

                    William Ellery Channing


A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

                     Chinese Proverb


Books are the compass and telescopes and sextants and charts which other people have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.

                  Jesse Lee Bennett


Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.  As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated: by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.

                     Joseph Addison


Books are the quietest and most constant friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and most patient of teachers.

                                Charles W. Eliot


Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed , and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

                       Francis Bacon


Only three things are necessary to make life happy: the blessing of God, books , and a friend.


Motivational Quotes by Students

28 08 2009

If you quit at your passion because it got too hard and you failed at it, you shall be a failure at many things.

    Van Jones (3rd grade student)


Even if you don’t do well at first, keep pursuing your passions, you will get better at them.

        Charlie Squire (3rd grade student)


At first passions are difficult.  But they give you energy.

              Charlie Squire (3rd grade student)


The more and more you explore something…

You get more and more out of it.

                    Olivia Ware (4th grade student)


Passion is something you like to do.

Passion isn’t something someone makes you do.

I am glad that we can choose our own passions

and someone doesn’t need to make us do them.

           Laurel Larsen (4th grade student)


If we did not take risks we would not be able to accomplish anything.

 Shannon Williams (4th grade student)


In your work you work to find your passion.

    Ali Burton (4th grade student)


When you aim high or you goals are extremely high, you are much more likely to succeed.

 Olivia Ware (4th grade student)


There is an enjoyable feeling of working hard on something that challenges you.

                                                     Shannon Williams (4th grade student) 


I think it is good if you do something you do not like because you could start liking it so much it could become one of your passions.

                                                                         Blake Krawl (4th grade student)

It’s About Time!!

28 08 2009

(based on an idea by Joel Barker)

Here is a story for those who have more than a passing interest in time.


About 400 years ago there was a battle over time.  You see, it was around the 1600’s when the first pocket watch was introduced.  Now people had time on their hands. But there were many who thought clocks were meant to be in towers, not in trousers.  Perhaps it was because the first model was the size and shape of a lemon.  For the stylish gentleman this meant the convenience of knowing the precise time but did create a rather unsightly bulge in his trousers.


As time passed, it became the fashion to spend time designing thinner watches.  Watch designers worked around the clock and even put in overtime in this race against time to create the thinnest watch.  By the 1700’s the French and British compressed the timepiece to 1 2 inches thick.  One hundred years later they squeezed the mechanism to : of an inch.  By 1850 manufacturers bottomed out at 3 of an inch.  You could say they were pressed for time.  Surprisingly this is still the thickness of most watches today.


As thinness reached its limit, the watch industry started to rotate the crank turning the gears of price and performance; lower price, more accuracy, lower price, more accuracy.  But, like clockwork, a new battle was about to begin.  It was only a matter of time when the pendulum would swing to a new battlefront.


Allow me to explain.  Before WWII the Swiss owned 90% of the watch market.  And even up to 1968 they still enveloped most of the world market share.  But time was running out for the Swiss. In ten years their corner on the market plummeted to almost nothing and they even had to release most of their workers.  This was the original time release formula of downsizing.  What happened?  What time bomb hit the Swiss?  They themselves were enveloped and wrapped up in their old way of thinking.  You might say that they were stitched in time.


A new nation soon dominated the watch making industry.  In the past this nation was unknown for watches.  But now Japan led the watch industry.  How could the Swiss, who controlled watch making for the entire 20th century, known for excellence and innovation, experience such a timely demise?  Were they just killing time?  What was the key to the failure of the Swiss and the success of Japan?


 The answer was profoundly simple.  The Swiss were put back to ground zero by a paradigm shift — a paradigm gear shift. Many of you are wearing this paradigm shift on your wrist right now if you took time to put them on.  The quartz movement watch is totally electronic using only one moving part.  It is one thousand times more accurate, more versatile and even thinner than the mechanical watch.


Who made time to invent this wonderful idea of using Quartz crystals for time keeping?  Some of you already know the answer.  The Quartz crystal watch was invented by the Swiss themselves in Neuchatel at their research laboratories. But when the researchers presented this idea to their manufacturers they were closed to the idea.  Their minds were locked. How did the engineers feel about this rejection?  I bet it really ticked them off.  I bet they really wanted to clean their clock.


They may have heard the manufacturers say these timeless killer phrases:

“It doesn’t have any gears to mesh with what we have always done”,

“We don’t have time for this”,

“This won’t wind up anywhere”,

“What a waste of time”,

“It just doesn’t tick”.


So confident were they, so locked in their mental box — in their Aparabox. They didn’t protect their idea.  They were not watching out for the possible time change.  They must have been Ahalf past out.  Texas instruments of America and Seiko of Japan took one look and the rest was history.  You see, they made the time.  For them it was good time management, perfect timingTime was definitely on their side.  They were having the time of their lives.  They were on a Rollex.


But for the Swiss . . . they had no time share in this.  And now they were living on borrowed time.  Things were winding down.  Soon their time would be up.  Yes, they were out of time.  They couldn’t beat the clock. They took a licking, and kept on ticking. They virtually disappeared from the marketplace.  They were locked in their old way of thinking — in a box, in a time capsule.  They refused to set their clocks to one of the biggest changes in the history of timekeeping. They were trying to make time stand still.  But you can’t turn back the clock when times change.  The rules had changed.  Not even the best watchmakers of the world could stop time.  They couldn’t call time out to progress.


There is a message here for all of us for all time that will help us remember the moral of this timely parable . . . that will help us be more clockwise. Don’t let old timeworn paradigms imprison your ideas in a box like serving time in a prison cage!! We need to break through the walls to create new ideas and not be behind the times.  Only then can we spring open the doors to the future and get outside of the paradigm box!!!

The Things We Steal From Children

25 08 2009

Dr John Edwards

One evening, on returning from lecturing to my students, my wife asked me: “And what did you steal from your students today?” The question rocked me, and as I examined my practice under her skilful questioning, I realized how much of the processes I kept for myself.

So we sat down and together we wrote the following:

If I am always the one to think of where to go next
If where we go is always the decision of the curriculum or my curiosity and not theirs.
If motivation is mine.
If I always decide on the topic to be studied, the title of the story, the problem to be worked on
If I am always the one who has reviewed their work and decided what they need.
How will they ever know how to begin?

If I am the one who is always monitoring progress.
If I set the pace of all working discussions.
If I always look ahead, foresee problems and endeavor to eliminate them.
If I swoop in and save them from cognitive conflict.

If I never allow them to feel and use the energy from confusion and frustration.

If things are always broken into short working periods.
If myself and others are allowed to break into their concentration.
If bells and I are always in control of the pace and flow of work
How will they learn to continue their own work?

If all the marking and editing is done by me.
If the selection of which work is to be published or evaluated is made by me.
If what is valued and valuable is always decided by external sources or by me.
If there is no forum to discuss what delights them in their task, what is working, what is  not working, what they plan to do about it.
If they have not learned a language to discuss their work in ways that are intrinsically  growth enhancing.
If they do not have a language of self-assessment.
If ways of communicating their work are always controlled by me.
If our assessments are mainly summative rather than formative.
If they do not plan their way forward to further action.

How will they find ownership, direction and delight in what they do?

If I speak of individuals but present learning as if they are all the same.
If I am never seen to reflect and reflection time is never provided.
If we never speak together about reflection and thinking and never develop a vocabulary  for such discussion.
If we do not take opportunities to think about our thinking.
If I constantly give them exercises that do not intellectually challenge them.
If I set up learning environments that interfere with them learning from their own  actions.
If I give them recipes to follow.
If I only expect the one right conclusion.
If I signify that there are always right and wrong answers.
If I never openly respect their thoughts.
If I never let them persevere with something really difficult which they cannot master.
If I make all work serious work and discourage playfulness.
If there is no time to explore.
If I lock them into adult time constraints too early.
How will they get to know themselves as a thinker?

If they never get to help anyone else.
If we force them to always work and play with children of the same age.
If I do not teach them the skills of working co-operatively.
If collaboration can be seen as cheating.
If all classroom activities are based in competitiveness.
If everything is seen to be for grades.
How will they learn to work with others?

For if they have never experienced being challenged in a safe environment.
-have had all of their creative thoughts explained away.
-are unaware what catches their interest and how then to have confidence in that  interest.
-have never followed something they are passionate about to a satisfying conclusion.
-have not clarified the way they sabotage their own learning.
-are afraid to seek help and do not know who or how to ask.
-have not experienced overcoming their own inertia.

-are paralyzed by the need to know everything before writing or acting.

-have never got bogged down.

-have never failed.

-have always played it safe.

How will they ever know who they are?

Creative Thoughts about Creativity #4

23 08 2009

Picture1To cease to think creatively is but little different from ceasing to live.

Ben Franklin

Ride the horse in the direction that it’s going.

Werner Erhard

There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.

Douglas MacArthur

Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.

Frank King

It takes courage to be creative.  Just as soon as you have a new idea, you are a minority of one.

E.  Paul Torrance

Practice and persistence are the necessary ingredients of creativity.


I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird.  I suddenly realized that anyone weird wasn’t weird at all and that it was the people saying they were weird that were weird.

Paul McCartney

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

The greatest enemies of creativity are crusty rigidity and stubborn complacency.


Also, creativity can be learned.  Once you have become convinced and aware that you can bring new things into being, then it is simply a matter of choosing a particular way to crate.


Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.  Any of us will put out more and better ideas if our efforts are appreciated.