George Lucas Educational Foundation

Making space for creativity...

Making space for creativity...

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Schools can be pretty focused places; it's not surprising, really. Teaching in the modern age is very much driven by outcomes, standardised testing and measurement of student development. This can lead teachers to be really driven about what is happening at every minute - and I sometimes wonder whether this limits the opportunities for students to connect with their own creative natures.

I think that the physical environment of a school can play a huge role in the development of creativity. If a school is a sterile environment, with all the rooms looking similar, devoid of artwork or colour, then I can understand students finding it more difficult to respond creatively to different tasks.

On the other hand, if a school is an exciting environment, an environment filled with challenges and colour and art, then I think that encourages students to be much more creative and enthusiastic.

I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion to see how other teachers are encouraging creativity through the physical environment in their schools. Here are three ideas that I've used, with some success:

1. Make the classroom vibrant and changeable.
I'm forever changing the layout of my classroom: the displays on the boards, the layout of desks, the furniture we have - even where we have lessons. Heck, I'd change the colour of the walls if I could do that, too. I know routine is important for young people, but so is a sense of excitement and vibrancy - especially when it comes to learning.

2. Words are important too.
When I was a student, an English teacher that I had would being every lesson with an excerpt from a poem, or a famous quote. Often, she would say nothing about it, just leave it on the board for the lesson. I really liked reading it, thinking about what it meant. I think that a well-written phrase or an excerpt can encourage creativity just as much as a piece of art.

3. Use colour and art wherever you can.
Include pictures on your slideshows. Have art hanging on the walls of your classroom. Allow students to have a corner of their room to display their favourite pieces of work. Put posters over all the walls of the room. This kind of visual 'filler' might distract students, but I think that it also adds to the creative element in a classroom.

So these are ways that I try to make my classroom a little more creative through the physical environment. What are your best tips?

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Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Most of the decorations in my room are projects made by my students. There's not much store-bought stuff on the walls. I also draw most of the learning posters I use.

Sometimes I write song lyrics on the board (students just think it's a poem). We unpack the song, then I play it. Most of the time, the kids really are shocked how the words are put into a melody. The tune changes the meaning of the words for sure.


Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

I wish I could accommodate student work as classroom decorations! I have 500+ students in K-4 and without the ability to display everyone's work - or at least an entire grade level at a time - I just don't think it's right / fair / possible.

One thing we do incorporate that inspires creativity AND is functional: our IdeaPaint whiteboard wall.

It was extremely tricky to paint, but, it works, and the kids LOVE it. We use it for brainstorming, group work, to-do lists, and more.

We used the IdeaPaint that is sold in retail stores (Home Depot, etc.); I am not sure but I think the 'commercial' grade is different and more expensive. There are other brands (Rustoleum makes a similar product) but I don't have any experience with it.

One neat thing is that you can paint almost anything to make it into a writeable surface. Tables, closets, anything really, as long as it's smooth and hard.

Definitely check out IdeaPaint if you'd like to add a cool new student-centered element to your classroom!


Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Kevin,
Brilliant idea - I've seen it done before, but I had forgotten about it. Heading off to the hardware store now!


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