Valuing Creativity

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

Finding a way to value creativity in education, in the workplace, and in life, tends to ignite joy wherever it is found. Keep searching for new ways!

IMAGE:  Many thanks to Looney Math Consulting for sharing this image. It’s one of several in their excellent article, “Honoring Creativity in the Classroom.” 

Orchestra Dreams

A guest post by my sister, Gigi Sherrell Norwood

I was raised on classical music.  When everyone else my age was arguing Beatles v. Stones, Jan and I were discussing Bernstein v. Ormandy.  So, when I reached the fifth grade and my teachers asked if I was interested in joining the band, taking up the clarinet seemed like the obvious thing to do.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of Gigi’s clarinet, or–better yet–Gigi with her clarinet. But it looked pretty much like this (big surprise).

I loved it.  Learning new skills kept me from getting bored in our rural school, and gave me the chance to learn one of the main themes from my favorite symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 4th.  I took group lessons on Saturdays, and later private lessons with my band director after school.  And I began to dream.  Maybe, some day, I would become a professional musician, and get to play with the New York Philharmonic!

I shared my dream with my band director.  He shot it down.  “Girls don’t play in professional orchestras,” he told me.

The all-male truth of 1969 revealed! Only the harpist was a woman.

 

I was crushed. How could this be true?  As soon as I got home I dug out my copy of Tchaikovsky’s 4ththe one with the picture of the whole orchestra on the cover.  One by one I checked out every single face.  And it was true!  The only woman in the entire ensemble was the harp player.

This was 1969, and the women’s movement hadn’t made it to small town Missouri.  I was still young enough to believe things would always be the way they were at that moment.  My interest in band began to decline.  Why should I work all those extra hours, if the boys were the only ones who could make a career of it?  By eighth grade, when they told me my final grade depended on getting up very early every morning, all summer long, and marching, I was done.  I dropped out of band and switched my allegiance back the theatre, where night owls who can’t tell left from right were more appreciated.

A “blind audition” for the Madison (WI) Symphony Orchestra yields a more objective result.

In the decades since, strong, wonderful women with more pioneering spirit than I, have broken the gender barrier in professional orchestras.  Blind auditions became the standard, concealing any gender cues and placing the auditioner behind a screen, so all the conductor could evaluate was the musician’s tone, musicality, and playing ability.  A whole generation of rigidly sexist artistic directors has died off, and about half the musicians in today’s New York Philharmonic are female.

A much more recent photo of the New York Philharmonic reveals a changed gender ratio.

But the hurt, and outrage I felt back in 1969 lingers.  It flares up again every time I hear a teacher shoot down a young person’s dream.  And I say, no matter what your creative field, feed the flame.

If someone comes to you with an impossible dream, remind yourself that it may simply not be possible yet.

The child with the shining face, who stands before you alight with the glory of her dream, may be the one who makes it possible, sometime in the future.

Nurture those dreams. We need them. They are the agents of change.

Gigi Sherrell Norwood

ABOUT GIGI: In addition to being my much-admired sister, Gigi Sherrell Norwood is the Director of Education and Concert Operations for the Dallas Winds (formerly the Dallas Wind Symphony), having used her BFA in Directing, her prodigious writing skills, and her lifelong love of music to become involved with a highly-esteemed professional musical group after all. Widow of the science fiction writer Warren C. Norwood, with whom she sometimes collaborated on projects under his byline, Gigi is also a talented writer herself. She is currently working on several urban fantasy stories set in the historic Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, TX. 

NOTE: for a similar post about a young woman’s creativity shot down, you might be interested in my post Death of a Purple Elephant, from 2011.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Lark in the Morning’s “Clarinets” page for the photo of the clarinet. Many thanks to Amazon, for the photo of the vintage NY Philharmonic album cover, featuring the all-male-except-the-harpist photo of the orchestra’s musicians. I am indebted to the Madison.com website for the image of the MSO blind audition. The photo is by Amber Arnold of the State Journal. Many thanks to Bidding for Good, for the photo of a more recent New York Philharmonic, complete with roughly half female musicians. Gigi provided the photo of herself. It is used with her permission.

Growing knowledge in the teaching garden

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

 Sometimes there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and learning from the ground up.

A parent volunteer with gardening experience works with children of all ages at the school, and helps teachers build lesson plans around their experiences in the garden.
A parent volunteer with gardening experience works with children of all ages at the Oak Hill school, and helps teachers build lesson plans around their experiences in the garden.

This little video gives a glimpse of the massive potential for tying lessons to life experiences with the Teaching Garden at a Fairfax, VA elementary school.

Oak Hill is clearly a fairly upscale neighborhood (note: they still have the Teaching Garden in the 2016-2017 school year), but schools from all different parts of the country, and all different socio-economic levels, have adopted similar programs in the last two decades.

Unless they grow up on a farm, nearly all children lack understanding about where their food comes from. This goes double for children who live in food deserts.

 

Lincoln Park in Duluth, MN is a classic food desert: their last full-service grocery store closed more than 30 years ago. Read more about it here.
Lincoln Park in Duluth, MN is a classic food desert: their last full-service grocery store closed more than 30 years ago. Read more about it here.

Food deserts, as you may know, are areas where healthy, affordable food is far away and hard to come by, especially if residents do not have convenient transportation. Food deserts all-too-frequently occur in minority communities, and can happen in both rural and urban environments. Food insecurity is everywhere.

While a vegetable garden isn’t a complete solution to a food desert, community gardens often do help address part of the problem, and students who learn how to garden in school have one more tool in their toolbox of survival skills.

Learning/teaching gardens have many lessons to teach in a variety of STEM disciplines.
Learning/teaching gardens have many lessons to teach in a variety of STEM disciplines.

Educators favor teaching gardens for other reasons, too. There’s much emphasis right now on the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines, and yes–there are guides for teaching STEM in learning gardens. Personally, I think STEM is incomplete without STEAM (add the arts), but that’s a topic for another post.

IMAGES AND VIDEO: Many thanks to Oak Hill Elementary School of Fairfax County, VA for the image and YouTube for the video. Thanks to University of Minnesota Extension for the article about Duluth’s food desert, and to Edutopia for the image of a STEM student in a greenhouse. The accompanying article is interesting, too.

World’s best Kindergarten? Maybe so.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Fuji Kindergarten. I first learned about it from a YouTube video I no longer can find–but it’s an amazing school, and a fascinating concept.

Listen to a 2014 TED Talk by its architect creator, Takaharu Tezuka, as he explains his concept:

The Montessori approach of the educators fits well with the open classrooms and the children’s freedom of movement.

One favorite activity at Fuji School is climbing on the tree with the cargo nets.
One favorite activity at Fuji School is climbing on the tree with the cargo nets.
This play area was built after the school was completed in 2007, but uses many compatible ideas.
This play area was built after the school was completed in 2007, but uses many compatible ideas.
The deck is a prominent part of the school's design. The kids love to run there, but the government did require protective railings--no, school officials were told, they couldn't put up nets around the edges instead.
The deck is a prominent part of the school’s design. The kids love to run there, but the government did require protective railings–no, school officials were told, they couldn’t put up nets around the edges instead.
Here's a glimpse of the open classroom design of the school. Architect Tezuka asserts that the noise is healthy for small children. As a teacher who's had to teach in noisy conditions, I'm less sure about that (of course, I was teaching high school, so that may be different).
Here’s a glimpse of the open classroom design of the school. Architect Tezuka asserts that the noise is healthy for small children. As a teacher who’s had to teach in noisy conditions, I’m less sure about that (of course, I was teaching high school, so that may be different).

The school has been profiled by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Monocle Magazine’s Asia Bureau Chief Fiona Wilson (don’t miss the video she narrates), and many others.

VIDEOS AND IMAGES: Many thanks to YouTube for the TED Talk video and images of the tree, and the play area.  The aerial view of the deck is from Upworthy, and the photo of the open classrooms is from Detail Inspiration. Fascinating articles and more photos are available from most of these. Many thanks to all!

Poverty’s cure?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

John Legend thinks schools should nurture all of children's talents, and empower them to be creative.
John Legend thinks schools should nurture all of children’s talents, and empower them to be creative.

Singer-songwriter and actor John Legend has had an amazing career, but he feels if he’d had an education that valued and nurtured his creative talents his life might have gone much better. If every child’s greatest potential could be activated and empowered, it seems reasonable to believe that poverty could decrease.

“We must break the long-held expectation that schools exist to mold and manage kids,” he said in a CNN interview. “In today’s world, expecting every child’s education to be the same, progress at the same rate and be measured against the same narrow standards of performances is not just outdated, it’s a disservice to young people and the educators who dedicate their lives to helping them.”

This month we’ll look at some of the ways innovative schools and educators are trying to break out of that old-fashioned paradigm.

IMAGE: Many thanks to A-Z Quotes, via Hippoquotes, for this image. 

Curl up to read in the Enchanted Forest

This week’s Artdog Image of Interest

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make these big-people-sized . . .

Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.
Photo by Zane Williams of The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.

These “reading pods” are part of a nature-inspired reading area at the Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, WI).

But the awesome coolness doesn’t stop there. Designed by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. to repurpose an old office building, this museum is vibrant with creative enrichment.

Learning through play is the guiding theme for areas such as the Art Studio, Log Cabin, Possible-opolis, Wildernest, and many others.

Wander through the museum’s website for more fun and inspiration. Better yet–if you’re ever in Madison, WI, wander through their museum. Many of the areas are marked “All Ages.” I hope they mean that! 🙂

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. for providing this photo and to BuzzFeed for posting an article about it. Many thanks to the Madison Children’s Museum for offering such a wonderful learning place!