Embodying Creativity

'Embodied Creativity' tells a story of a "classroom" far removed from today's notions of what you would find in a school. It is inspirational in the way it talks of the importance of children being embodied, learning through movement and happiness. It inspires us to rethink the possibilities of the "classroom" and creative ways to lean. This chapter was taken from 'Reinventing Education' (Published by SEI) and was written by Ruth Nolan who holds a Masters in Creative Art Therapy, has years of experience teaching, facilitating and working with children, and uses Neurosequential models to provide training materials for psychologists and clinical psychologists.


Ruth begins with a visualisation of the "classroom" that is set in nature with mixed ages and genders in a semicircle around a makeshift stage area. Here are some excerpts: 


All attention is riveted on the two players, centre stage, who are miming with great drama, a scene they have improvised representing a moment in History from the Second World War...


The adult mentor stands and instructs the audience to rise and with movement, represent how they feel about what they have just seen....


(Afterwards) players are guided to sit in stillness, and then as they feel ready, to move to the perimeter of the room and collect paper and pastels, and represent their experience in colour and shape. The mentor instructs the students to give their representations a title.... and jot down key words...


The mentor is leading the class through a series of stretches and visualisations, designed not only to relieve any tension in the body, but also to maintain the connection between the mind and the body. Breath and movement restores connection with the earth, balances both sides of the brain and relaxes the students into an alert engagement with the next improvised short performance...


These short hastily improvised plays and sets have been put together by the small groups of players working together collaboratively after sharing discoveries made through their private research via internet, library and text books. Their grouping has come about through self selecting around topics raised by the whole group after listening to a story read by the mentor in an earlier class....


The mentor says “selecting any of the five topics you have witnessed or participated in today, write about what you now know about fascism and war that is new to you, using further research to investigate your area of interest. “ You can choose your mode of writing from the following: newspaper report, main story TV news item, screenplay, documentary, essay or poem. Hand your research notes in with your final work. Remember to document your sources. Remember to ask for help from the IT and library staff, they are there to assist your research. At our next meeting, we will discuss issues arising out of your research and your experiences today.....


Thank you for your splendid participation in today’s class, I felt moved by the sincerity of your work today.... Remember to collect your visual representations and add them to your portfolios to be used for inspiration when you are writing, and to be kept for our final day of clustering for this subject.


"As the students leave the classroom, and pull on their shoes, I notice that some of them look pensive and thoughtful, others, relieved to be moving out of the heaviness of war and others hurrying to let off steam outdoors. There are a few Monty Python clowns, goose stepping in unison with one arm raised and the other held under their noses representing Hitler’s moustache.


What I noticed most about my experience of the class, was that every student was fully engaged.


Ruth goes on to explain:


Subjects need not be disconnected from each other. Let’s see Art, Maths and Music taught in the same classroom, they are after all intimately connected. Surely biology, geology and anthropology would make geography lessons much more interesting, and why not combine them with history and archaeology. Why must our students chose between philosophy, music, literature and art? They are all interconnected, why not teach them that way.


I agree with John Ralston Saul who suggests we need a creative workforce to meet the rapid change we confront, and I suggest therefore that we need creativity to be modelled by embodied creative teachers. Let’s have some “effervescent imaginative disorder “in our schools. Surely engaged fascinated students will reduce the need for the regimentation that schools of the past have employed to keep order. The English education system was based on a military model; a model designed to prevent people thinking for themselves. If we want a mature population that can think for itself, we must begin by giving our teachers creative and embodying tools and the time and space to apply them.

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