• Michelle Cook

What does your brand of creativity look like?

"Creativity" is something I think about quite often when I consider my own role as a teacher. The mantra anyone can be creative is often thrown around but it is one I object to. I don’t like that it frames creativity as a skill, rather than a universal cognitive quality. Unfortunately, the word is a double-edged sword which has very positive associations, but is also quite intimidating. I strongly feel that everyone is creative. In my view, creativity is the natural outcome of curiosity.

Curiosity and unique emotive responses are crucial in the context in which I teach history, using historical collections in archives or in museums. As a rule, my preferred approach is the discovery workshop where children interact directly with historical items and are engaged as co-participants in an investigative project. 

In the past I have framed lessons as specific historical enquiries, breaking down big historical narratives into smaller questions or situations which are brought to life through real documents, artwork or objects. I prefer to take on the role of facilitator. That is, one who offers the skeleton of contextual information that makes the enquiry possible, chairs the Socratic seminar-like discussion, all the while creating a safe space where children are encouraged to express their thoughts, to question and to collaborate with the teacher and each other. When I speak about a safe space I refer to one that allows a child to imbue a strong identity and self-assurance and communicate with others. After all, creativity requires communication. My personal objective is to instill students with perseverance and confidence, i.e. skills that enable self-expression, that support children to talk about or respond to the things they are curious about.  

The challenge in teaching history creatively for me lies in tapping into the areas of interest of each child (or individual). It is in thinking creatively about how to build bridges to more timid learners so as to engage them. It is also to show learners that, insofar as they are concerned, responding creatively is not confined to traditionally artistic forms of expression, but exists in the smallest contribution if it is well-considered, and grounded in one’s own unique areas of expertise (irrespective of level).

18 May is International Museums Day and this year ICOM (International Council of Museums – a global museum networks) has set the theme: the hyper-connected museum. ICOM advocates digital technologies as a way of generating new narratives, and many institutions are thinking about this theme in terms of ICT. In Mozambique, where access to technology presents a very baseline issue, we are being challenged to think about hyper-connectivity in a different way.

My synapses are firing: connectivity - communication - creativity - engagement

On the table is sensory walk through a diorama at the Natural History Museum where children will be invited to re-animate the museum by imagining and vocalising smells and sounds. The objective is to encourage visitors to connect with the collection and each other in a way that adds an additional layer to an otherwise motionless space. The result may be more hyper-active than hyper-connected, but there is nothing wrong with a little spark.

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