The creative adult is the child who has survived.
—Ursula K. Le Guin
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast.]
Choice, Independence, Collaboration, and Precision
Sam, my youngest son, and I went to Flite Fest this summer. Flite Fest is a gathering hosted by the YouTube channel Flite Test. Hundreds of remote-controlled airplane pilots gather at an airfield in central Ohio for this four-day event. I had no idea what to expect; Sam was in charge of the entire trip. He ordered the tickets, booked the Airbnb, and packed the van.
Of course people bring planes that are already built, but a big part of Flite Fest is “the builds.” There were large tents filled with tables, hot-glue guns, soldering irons, and piles of foam board to encourage people to build their own planes. The Flite Fest store sold kits to help people new to builds, as well as parts like motors and propellers for those who wanted more independence in their builds.
People sliced, glued, and adjusted, and I couldn’t help but realize that we were with Sam’s kindred spirits. Our dining room is often referred to as the Invention Room or Sam’s Room. Even when Sam clears it for a dinner party, a workbench remains in the corner, stacked with tools, along with a “boneyard” of Styrofoam and cardboard.
Across the tent from us was YouTube celebrity Peter Sripol, with his sidekick Sam Foskuhl and dog, Toby. They were working on a build with a 30-foot wing and 50 motors and propellers. There was an open invitation for others to help, leaving sidekick Sam F. with time to construct a foam board doghouse for Toby.
Sam worked just like he does at home—focused and fast. As a writer, I understand the creative process that ebbs and flows and wanting to ride the wave of creativity and productivity when it comes. Sam would pause to watch Peter and Sam F. across the tent. Their build that defied the odds was inspiring, and Sam dared to imagine a little bigger than before. He observed builds around us, and shared tools. He admired creative approaches and acknowledged the kit builds. “I really love some of those kits,” he said, “but I’d rather make my own.”
He’s always been adverse to following others’ directions for creation, which is why school isn’t such a fun place for him. I looked around the tent and noticed the wide age range. I wondered how many of those people struggled in school. Then I was overwhelmed by the joy and rich learning that surrounded us.
There was choice and independence and also collaboration and precision. It reminded me of the importance of these characteristics to a workshop that hums with joy and growth. Let’s be diligent in giving time to our workshops so they are built upon the traits of choice, independence, collaboration, and precision. This is how we ensure children grow as readers and writers.
This week we look at fueling creativity—plus more, as always.
Ruth is the editor in chief of the Choice Literacy site and the director of professional learning for The Lead Learners Consortium in northern Indiana. Ruth previously worked as a middle and high school language arts and science teacher and a K-12 instructional coach. She is the author of Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers (Stenhouse, 2017) and other books for teachers of writers. When not writing professionally, Ruth collects stories of adoption, faith, and whimsy. You can follow her at Ruth Ayres Writes or @ruth_ayres on Twitter or Instagram.
This month’s featured contributor is Leigh Anne Eck. Leigh Anne teaches sixth grade at George Rogers Clark Middle School in Vincennes, Indiana. She is passionate about connecting her students with books and helping teachers believe they are writers. She shares her reading, writing, and teaching life on her blog A Day in the Life and on Twitter @Teachr4.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Leigh Anne Eck selected the young adult novel Enduring Freedom by Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy as our October read. Grab a copy, and join the conversation using the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub.
Ruth Ayres and Heather Fisher discuss this week’s theme, fueling creativity, on the podcast.
Brenda Power suggests formats for creative events that build stronger home-school connections. This article was first published in 2019.
Mandy Robek compiles a list of her tried-and-true books for brain breaks with young learners. This article was first published in 2014.
Jen Schwanke shares some strategies for sustaining student attention, beyond just calling out a student’s name over and over and over again. This article was first published in 2019.
Our Process Play course Empower Choice for Readers and Writers by elementary contributors will fuel your creativity for offering more choice to students in reading and writing. Free to members and available to purchase.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
In this encore video, Hayley Whitaker confers with Grace about her writing early in the year.
Jen Court shares a “sweet” idea for practical and meaningful professional learning. Download a template to tailor professional learning for your school.
Don’t forget our downloads! Heather Fisher works with teachers to create a tool to make conversations in classrooms more thoughtful and clearly defined around learning topics. Download a copy of the tool to plan your next conversation.
In this encore article, Ruth Ayres explains why setting a coaching schedule is crucial for success, even if the work is mundane and challenging at the same time.
Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller recognize the difficulty of keeping imagination alive in times of stress and offer seven ways to increase a company’s capacity for imagination in this article from Harvard Business Review.
Creativity doesn’t wait for the perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.
That’s all for this week!