Diversity is such a big, bold powerful word. For some diversity can mean difference, this is how I will explore the term in an early childhood context. There are countless ways in which we can embrace difference through Creativity.
Creativity can be applied to any field of interest, we only need to look around at some of the amazing architecture, landscaping, athletes as well as poetry and writing to know that creativity goes far beyond the arts. In the context of early education ‘Creativity’ can be described as the ability to produce, through imaginative skill, something new (Robinson, 2009; Wright, 2010).
Hargreaves (2012) identities that in order for creativity to flourish for our young children there needs to be four key foundations: social, cognitive, emotional and motivational. Social relationships developed with peers or like-minded peers as well as with adults will foster creative thinking. Through creative play children will develop competencies, dispositions and skills to nurture creative thinking – building cognitive foundations. Children’s emotional and well-being requirements are essential for creative thinking. Intrinsic motivation should be encouraged - children engaging with creative activities for their own enjoyment rather than for a reward or benefit (Hargreaves, 2012).
Susan Wright (2010) explores the concept of ‘creativity’ through looking at the different cognitive traits that work alongside creative thinking and how these relate to children’s exploration and learning. The ability to think creatively is closely linked to our cognitive traits and also to our personality traits. Cognitive traits can refer to thinking styles, the ability to be able to visualise different outcomes or solutions to problems, developing imaginative thought and applying it in appropriate situations, experimenting with ideas and thoughts and the ability to think logically (Wright, 2010).
These foundations for creativity and cognitive traits align closely with Gagné’s (2014) differentiated model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT). Natural abilities, Environmental, Intrapersonal and Developmental processes as well as the role of chance can all influence children’s competences. Within the early years period of learning and development it is vital that children are given the time and opportunity to explore their own creative ideas, experience different approaches and have opportunities to open-ended creative experiences.
Teachers can highlight the studio habits through everyday experiences with visual objects. Using the adapted framework of ‘Studio thinking’ devised by Harvard Project Zero (Hetland, Winner, Veenema & Sheridan, 2007, p. 79) is one way to support complex thinking in and through the arts. One of the advantages of this framework is that it is flexible and open-ended. It can foster young children's diverse learning approaches. Reading books and exploring the illustrations is always a good starting place. Teachers can encourage the eight studio habits: Developing Craft, Engaging and Persisting, Envisioning; Expressing; Observing, Reflecting, Stretching and Exploring, Understand the Art world through book reading and artistic exploration as well as other learning areas (Sheridan, 2009).
A particular focus on a studio habit would be targeted depending on the interest at the time. While reading a book the teacher can ask children what they think the artist used to create the picture. Ask what the children what materials they might use to create the picture (Developing Craft). Questions can be directed around the artist’s engagement – asking children about how the artist may be feeling after creating all of the illustrations (Engaging and Persisting). The teacher can select specific scenes or characters from the book and ask children to imagine the setting and explain in more detail what it might look like. Fostering imagination can help children build visual images without actually directly observing something (Envision). Discussing emotions and feelings about a picture will support children to learn how to convey an idea or feeling. Asking children how the picture makes them feel and the mood of the setting will encourage expression (Expressing). Observing what is happening in the picture can encourage children to focus on the visual elements such as lines, shapes, composition, colour etc. Looking at the picture at a much closer view will highlight things that may not be some obvious at first glance (Observe). Asking children reflective questions for them to ponder on will encourage children to think and talk with others about different aspects of a picture. Learning to judge their own work as well as others can be explored by asking children what they think makes a good illustration (Reflect and Evaluate). Lastly, extending the children’s ideas by talking about how they could find other ways to portray the same scene in the book (Stretch & Explore).
Through integrating visual art approaches “other concepts can be explored in visual and verbal modalities” (Sheridan, 2009, p.85). Teachers/adults need to ensure gifted children have opportunities to foster their creativity by creating, expressing their ideas and feelings, responding and representing their perceptions and understanding of the world around them through multimodalities.
Claxton, G. (2002). Building learning power. Bristol, Great Britain: LO Limited.
Craft, A. (2008). Creativity and early years settings. In Paige-Smith, A & Craft, A. (Eds), Developing Reflective Practice in the Early Years (pp 93-107). Open University.
Duffy, B. (2002). Supporting creativity and imagination in the early years. Buckingham, England: Open University Press.
Gagne, F. (2014). Differentiated model of giftedness and talent (DMGT). Retreived from http://www.gagnefrancoys.wix.com/dmgt-mddt
Hargreaves, D. (2012). What do we mean by creativity and creative thinking? In Fumoto, H., Robson, S., Greenfield,. S. & Hargreaves, D, Young children’s creative thinking (pp 15 – 25). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. (2007). Studio Thinking: The real benefits of visual arts instruction. New York: Teachers College Press.
Sheridan, K. (2009). Studio thinking in early childhood. In Narey, M. (Ed). Making Meaning: Constructing multimodal perspectives of language, literacy and learning through arts-based early childhood education (pp71-88). Pittsburgh, USA: Springer.
Robinson, K. (2009). The Element: How finding your passion changes everything. Great Britain: Allen and Lane.
Wright, S. (2010). Understanding creativity in early childhood. Mean-making and children’s drawings. London: Sage.