This week Ashley and I have the cover story for Newsweek magazine, a package of articles on the science of fostering creativity in children. In two days online, it has generated about 2,500 comments. Please read it and share with friends.
We've been following this body of science for several years, waiting for it to mature - waiting for key findings to be replicated, waiting for the neuroscience to get refined, waiting for longitudinal data to get peer reviewed, et cetera. It's finally built to a point where it really adds up to something new and meaningful - and worth reporting.
I have to admit, when I first heard there was a science of creativity, I was intrigued and skeptical simultaneously. I figured whatever scientists might be able to measure, that's not "real" creativity. And by real creativity, I meant creative excellence/genius.
But the more I studied this science, the more I stopped being defensive and accepted the obvious: kids have to start somewhere. Most of the creations of kids are things only a parent could love. But if their homes and schools ask kids to regularly come up with lots of ideas, and follow their curiosity, and then refine their ideas - then eventually, kids get better at it. Their ability to generate ideas and refine ideas improves over time.
Every day, there are missed opportunities to challenge children to generate lots and lots of ideas. When a child has a paper to write for school, rather than just have them pick an idea, teachers and parents should have them drum up five or ten ideas. Then, spend a little time figuring out which is the best one.
As we write in the story, research shows that preschool children ask their parents - on average - about a 100 questions per day. Why, why, why - sometimes parents just wish it'd stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they've pretty much stopped asking. It's no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn't stop asking questions because they lost interest: it's the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.
In case you miss it from the link above, there is a second article on the Newsweek site as well, Forget Brainstorming. And if you want a better tour of the kinds of creativity tasks that scholars give to kids - or want to try them out at home with your children - click here.
Ashley and I also want to thank everyone for making NurtureShock a big success this last year. It was one of Amazon's 100 bestselling books of the year, and made over thirty Best of 2009 lists. The paperback edition will be in stores in January.