Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Tremendous Qwest

As I write this post, my daughter perches on the back of the couch to my right, staying up past her bedtime to work on her Chapter Book, the first in a series called "The Grassland Secrets: The Princess and the Crystal Stairs."

I think there's a good argument for letting a budding novelist burn the midnight oil, even on a schoolnight. I don't know what it's like to be in the stands when your kid hits a homerun, but watching my daughter chew on the end of her pencil as she ponders her next sentence might be just as thrilling.

Tonight I attended a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson, an innovator and advocate for creativity. While I haven't read his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Sir Ken's message tonight was that you know you're in your element when you have a natural capacity for what you do; you understand the discourse of your field and speak the language. You get it, whatever it is. Your work is not just what you do, it's who you are.

Because his talk was geared toward educators, he then described and advocated for the kinds of academic environments that both help one find and nurture passion.

To illustrate his claim that human potential blooms under the right conditions, he recounted the Death Valley Phenomenon of 2005, in which the normally arid, lifeless region exploded with spring wildflowers the likes of which hadn't been seen in fifty years, as a result of heavy winter rains. Hearty seeds had long lain dormant awaiting their chance to sprout.

Our manufacturing model of education, Robinson argues, is stifling the creativity that children are born with--the innovative spirit I am feeling particularly fortunate to watch at work this evening.

Over the holidays our daughter rekindled her friendship with the daughter of dear friends who were visiting. We delighted in the products of their collective imaginations: dance routines, stuffed animal dramas, stories and drawings. As we anticipated the end of their stay, I suggested to our first graders that they collaborate on a storybook together, which they could send back and forth through the mail, each of them contributing text for the next one to continue.

In late January, a folded and stapled, construction-paper-covered booklet arrived in our mailbox, with the cover page completed and illustrated: "The Golden Bridge of Courage." It was my daughter's task to launch the tale. She got right to work on Chapter 1, "The Bridge," finished Chapter 2, "The Great Great Poand" (pond), and soon we had three pages and a cliffhanger to send back to our buddy, along with some Valentines.

Well, Valentine's Day was last week, and we already have the novella in our possession again. Within an hour of opening the envelope, our daughter had completed her next part of the saga. The only things slowing these two creative freight trains down are their mamas and their ability to get themselves to the post office.

It's safe to say these kiddoes are in their element. The golden bridge between them is pencil, paper, and a shared determination to create.

I have a newfound resolve to not only invest more in my own passions, but to recognize and encourage those of my children, family, and friends.

As Sir Ken Robinson reminded us tonight, healthy, dynamic organisms enrich the environments in which they thrive.


steve jones said...

love it!

cdl said...

Thank you for continuing to remind us to be present and open to discovery.
Carol Lemei