Monday, October 3, 2011

Flagstaff's Creativity Tribe Comes Together

Sir Ken Robinson speaks to a table of educators from NAU and FALA.

  October is here, and really, there is no excuse for you to stay home (unless you want to).  Last week I attended Sir Ken Robinson's public speaking event.  I also got to interview the Knight of Creativity himself.
  Robinson is a leading educational consultant known world-wide for his innovative approaches to creativity in the K-12 classroom. He has written many books and articles on creativity, the arts, education and cultural development, including the New York Times bestseller “The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything” and “Out of Our Minds:  Learning to be Creative.”

  And yes, he's a knight.  In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts.
  In his address, Sir Ken talked about the crisis we are facing as we cut the arts out of our school curricula, and deprive children of arts, music, dance and theatre education.  "As a system we have contrived to stifle the creative impulse," he said to the packed seats in Ardrey Auditorium.  "Kids are usually creatively rich, and adults usually aren't.  Creativity should be the heart of everything we do."  The implication here is that creativity isn't much a part of anything we do.  Or perhaps we don't identify it as creativity?

  Well, what is creativity?  Is it just the fine arts, music, or theatre?  "Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value," says Sir Ken.  So no, it's NOT just the arts-- creativity can be applied in math, working with people, and while running a company.  "Anything that evolves human consciousness is creative,"  he said.

  I think people need to stop feeling self-conscious about being creative.  You don't need to necessarily be a painter, or a jazz musician!!  I think this is a big one for me; I always feel slightly apologetic when people ask me if I'm an artist.  Well, no, I write a lot, I like to dance, and usually I can come up with a scrappy and unique solution... The biggest thing I came away with from Sir Ken's speech is that EVERYONE has the capacity to be creative.  No matter what field you are in!

Here's me, interviewing Sir Ken.  Photo by Steven Toya.
  After his speech, 160 NAU faculty, students, and K-12 educators in the Flagstaff Unified School District (as well as charter schools) gathered for a workshop to discuss creativity in education.  During that time, I had the chance to talk to Sir Ken about one's "tribe" and what that really means.  Much like the educators that were gathered together that day, Sir Ken described a tribe as "people who have similar areas of interest and a shared commitment to that type of discourse.  Not necessarily people you agree with.  That's the key thing," Having conversations about your passion and even arguing about it affirms the passion.  Being surrounded by other people's achievements elevates your own game.

  We are drawn to people that share the same interest.  And if we're really lucky, we will have 1-2 people who practically share our mind, says Sir Ken.  Yes, it's important to surround ourselves with people we admire, and people who encourage creativity.
  "If the Arts aren't there (in the school system) you're not educating people...(But) they're not dead, they're dormant.  If the conditions are right, creativity can bloom," sayeth Sir Ken.

  And those conditions include realizing that creativity is an evolutionary process; contains original thinking; and produces ideas of value.  I think we can all stand behind that.

An FUSD teacher gets creative at the Creativity in Education Workshop on Friday.



  1. Great story, Elizabeth. I am really sorry to have missed Sir Ken, but I think I've re-connected with my tribe in Santa Fe for sure! All is well. Marjie

  2. Hi Marjie,
    I'm really glad you have found your tribe, even though it's in Santa Fe! I miss your creative energy. E.