Earth without art is just eh

I may be a bit late to this party, but someone recently sent me a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks about education and creativity. As is all too common for my internet rambling, I finally got around to watching them at 2am last Saturday, when I was here at the Museum to be the Awake-All-Night-in-Case-of-Emergency person during the 8thAjax Pathfinders’ visit for an overnight program.  (It’s hard to fit that job title on a name tag, let me tell you.) By the way, here’s the awesome group of Pathfinders (plus two Girl Guides), looking intrepid and chipper the morning after their sleepover here:

IMG_4693 2013 Apr 13 8th Ajax Pathfinders group shot wigwam WR

But back to me and Sir Ken in the middle of the night.  His talks on creativity and education are full of irreverent wit and sharp insights into the fundamental weakness of how we teach children. "If you're not prepared to be wrong," he says, "you'll never come up with anything original... but our education systems... are set up so that the worst thing you can be is wrong... we're educating people out of their creative capacities."   I've seen it myself: my daughter used to draw trees as wild, multi-hued scraggles filling her skies. Now she dutifully creates tree trunks that are exclusively brown, with puffy green-cloud tops. Maybe a token apple, red, floating in the monolithic green.

"Creativity must have the same status as literacy," Robinson says. Right now, our education system "progressively teaches us from the waist up, and is a protracted training for university entrance, favouring academic intelligence. " The result "is that many brilliant, highly talented, creative people think they're not," a tragedy for each of those individual lives, in my opinion. But Robinson's thinking about the bigger picture:  we can't afford to squander different kinds of intelligence, he suggests. The kids entering kindergarten today will retire around 2075 - a world we can't imagine from here, and will require new thinking to navigate.

Listening to these talks, I laughed (he's very funny), I cried (it was late: I was fragile) and I was so inspired.

In the education department here, we do get wrapped up in this skewed existing system, not least because the wonderful teachers who bring their kids on fields trips to broaden their experience must justify these trips in terms of curriculum links -- and we meet teachers' needs by shaping our programs around those curriculum links.  And as I listened to Ken Robinson talk about the hierarchy of subjects -- math and languages at the top, down through humanities, with art way at the bottom (or off the list entirely) -- I had to acknowledge that it is indeed new science programming that's got top billing on our to-do list around here (see The Perfect Machine for an example).  Not that there's anything wrong with science and math!  But I was reminded to celebrate creative expression, and our arts programs, as valid and equally important part of education -- the most important part, according to Ken Robinson.

In that spirit, I'd like to share some recent photos from some of our creative arts programs here -- Rhema Christian School's visit yesterday for Watercolour Painting and Soapstone Carving, and The Children's Montessori School's visit last month for Watercolour Painting.  In both programs, students participate in a hands-on introduction to new and specific techniques, and to the Museum context for these arts, but then they are free to create what inspires them.  Kids in our arts programs often can't believe it at first:  "Can we really go anywhere in the Museum"?"  "Can I really paint (carve) anything?"  "Can I paint something other than a canoe?"  YES! YES! YES!

IMG_4765 girl with WC canoe WR IMG_4766 2 boys with WC WR IMG_4772 2013 Apr 17 Rhema 2 boys soapstone wet sanding WR IMG_4395 2013 March Montessori WC boy outside wigwam cropped WR IMG_4398 2013 March Montessori 2 boys WC in Trappers' hut WR IMG_4399 2013 March Montessori WC 2 girls WRIMG_4761 2013 Apr 17 Rhema WC SOAP girl with WC

For more information on our arts and other school programs, please visit our website, or contact me at 705.748.9153 x203 or karen.taylor@canoemuseum.ca

To hear Sir Ken Robinson's TED talks, click here.