Growing up, I didn’t think I was creative. I wasn’t good at traditional arts, and there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me—Asian American. Moreover, in school, I’d only seen arts, crafts, and music being celebrated as creative outlets, so how could I have understood that creativity is so much more? I didn’t have access to what that could look like. How many other youths and adults thought they weren’t creative growing up? Too many. This is why I’ve been on a mission to unlock creativity for all and why I’m so grateful that you’re dedicating some of your time to creativity too.
Today’s youths have access to so many new opportunities and role models. And I deeply admire the teachers, educators, parents, and authors who go out of their way to help students learn what being creative, courageous, and curious can look like—beyond traditional arts. Instead of simply saying, “This is a creativity lesson plan,” they will hide the opportunity to learn these values within another plan so that students will have the organic “aha moment” and discover what creativity, courage, and curiosity are.
Lesson plans focused on learning by doing bring so much power! Values such as courage, curiosity, creativity, empathy, kindness, teamwork, patience, and humility can be hidden in team activities, history classes, math and science exercises, journal essays, and classroom layout designs indicating a safe place to share ideas and new thoughts. When creativity learning is embedded in a journey like this, students remain curious and envision themselves boosting creative expression and problem solving abilities. That’s the kind of confidence and creative clarity that I wish many of us had enjoyed when we were younger. How can we provide that for our youth today?
Here are three suggestions I recommend in your lesson plans.
How Many Different Ways? – Playing with Possibilities
“How Many Different Ways?” is a simple fun way to push students to reframe how to see something. How many different ways can we solve this puzzle? How many different ways can we read this book? How many different ways can you go home? How many different ways can you get this project done? How many different ways can your team complete this project by the due date? By pushing them to celebrate thinking about different ways to perform familiar tasks, they’ll be empowered to think differently and ask what other ways things can be done instead of falling back on the status quo. Even trying how many different ways we could play hide and seek—with consideration for COVID safety at this time, of course—can be a fun way to reimagine how we play and hide in a classroom. Pique students’ curiosity and imagination by pushing them to celebrate asking those questions.
How can I do this if I don’t have access to___? – Playing with Constraints
Finding the courage to do something new starts with realizing constraints aren’t always a bad thing. If something doesn’t go as planned, you simply have to find a different way of doing things. Whether it’s a math exercise or a history project, ask students, “How can you do this if you don’t have access to ____?” Get them curious and seeing themselves in the context of the protagonist. If I had to solve this math equation without a variable that I’ve used before, how would I solve it? If I was living during the Civil War, how would I protect myself and my family? Determine what the scene and context are, but the key is opening the lens and viewing constraints as an opportunity to consider new possibilities.
Curious Detective – Playing with Questions
Challenging students to see and think things through as a detective who is seeing a scene for the first time can be a great tool as well. What questions would one ask to solve this case? The goal in this exercise (which you could add to any other lesson plan) is to get students to celebrate asking questions—the bigger, deeper ones. Often a lot of our learning is focused on finding one right answer, but there isn’t enough celebration of the journey itself—or why it’s important to practice divergent thinking, asking a lot of questions with openness. It’s also important to ask questions about things we take for granted and seem to understand perfectly.
How could a chair express how it feels? How would you describe what a cell phone is to an alien who has never seen it before? You could make the exercise harder by including more constraints by asking them to use certain phrases such as “what if,” “how might we,” and “why,” or adding time limits. While our younger audience may feel this is easy for them, you’ll be surprised how this challenge expands their questioning capability and overall curiosity.
A bonus reminder is that all of these approaches work for all ages. I love using these principles when I design and facilitate culture and leadership development workshops and programs for teams, executives, and communities too. People—young or old—don’t like to be told; we like to learn by doing. We like to discover on our own if we like something or not. I encourage embedding these insights into your educator’s training, teachers’ team building, and staff conversations to encourage creativity exercises for your staff and colleagues too.
Maybe we could have some exercises with parents and students working on a creative challenge together and that could even add a special bonding moment for them! In the end, how can we ask others to be creative if we aren’t taking the time to be creative, courageous, and curious ourselves? No matter how busy we may feel, it’s important to build in time for creativity, courage, and curiosity. They are our friends—and friends who can bring out the best in us no matter what age we are. I can’t wait to hear how your journey goes!
You can read more about her latest children’s book Have You Seen My Friends? and various teacher/parents guide and activity sheets on her website www.creativitywithmonica.com. Visit https://creativitywithmonica.com/free to access the free resources.
Monica H. Kang is the award-winning children’s book author who specializes in depicting creativity, emotions, and diversity. She is on a mission to unlock creativity for all and is eager to create resources that could empower young friends to find their creative authentic voices. When she isn’t writing, she serves Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and global leaders, helping them to rethink culture, leadership, and team development alongside her company InnovatorsBox® and her books Rethink Creativity: How to Thrive, Inspire and Innovate at Work and Have You Seen My Friends? She dreams of a day when everyone can show up as themselves and cannot wait for more young friends to harness their full creative power.