Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Creativity in our Kids. Why we need it. How to get it.

Here's a recap on the disturbing article from Newsweek, titled, "Creativity in America."

While the tests it references confirm enriched environments are allowing our children to test higher on IQ exams, the reverse is happening with creativity scores. This is troubling because creativity and curiosity are a better measure of long term success. It's especially troubling in 2010 b/c:
  1. Current trends at home and at school decrease, rather than nurture, our capacity for creativity
  2. The 21st century needs the original and useful ideas which flow from creativity now more than ever.
The culprits include more screen time, less unstructured free time and more standardized teaching and testing.

The short answer for more creative kids:
1. Limit screen time and increase play time. Consider reading "Free-Range Kids" or at least a blog posting.
2. Meet with school admins and teachers to discuss developing kids who can think critically. Ask for lessons that have to do with problems in and around the school. Ask about project based learning that teaches across the curriculum. Consider using the Environment as an Integrating Context at or the Teacher's Guide to my "An Environmental Guide from A to Z" found on the Green Sugar Press website.

For kids to thrive in the 21st century, they'll need more than the left side of the brain. Creativity happens when both sides are engaged. And to ensure both sides are working well, the part of the body below the neck needs to get exercise too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Chicago Area Teachers (and for parents that have kids that have teachers)



Oct. 13 – 16 at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Begin your Conference experience by joining fellow attendees for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at new Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Science Center. Tour the science center, sip a cocktail, and take a tram ride around the 2.6 perimeter of the Garden. Trams are wheelchair accessible.

To register: visit
Chicago educators are eligible to register for Saturday only and receive CPDUs.
Grade level: PreK-12
CPDU credit: 1 per hour, CPS Lane credit: 1, Graduate credit: 1

Recent research on psychological development and education has demonstrated the positive influence of exposing individuals of all ages and abilities to the natural world and plant rich environments. The Chicago Botanic Garden and the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) will address the programs and benefits of interaction with nature at the 2010 AHTA Annual Conference / Chicago Botanic Garden 13th Annual School Garden Conference. Specifically, the conference program will focus on how nature, horticulture, and environmental studies are integrated in a variety of contexts to support educational, vocational, social, and therapeutic goals. Individuals with special challenges are recognized as an increasing segment of the general population, particularly as early diagnoses, medical technologies, and “mainstreaming” or “inclusion” programs improve. Welcoming individuals of all abilities, particularly those with special challenges – physical, cognitive, and behavioral – to a plant rich environment poses particular challenges to educators, therapists, and human services workers alike.

Nov. 13 & 20 at the Chicago Botanic Garden
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Fee: $150 ($140 for Educator Members)
Grade level: K-8
CPDU credit: 15, Lane credit: 1, Graduate credit: 1

The Garden brings you the latest techniques for fostering literacy through science and science through literacy. Learn how to develop practical lesson plans that inspire kids to read, write about, and discover science and nature. We will look at some of our favorite books and learn a number of bookmaking techniques.

Dec. 4 at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Dec. 11 at the Brookfield Zoo
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Fee: $150 ($140 for Educator Members)
Grade level: PreK-12
CPDU credit: 15, Lane credit: 1, Graduate credit: 1

Why are deserts important? Why are some spreading? Why should we protect them? Join educators in the Garden’s greenhouses to explore desert plants. Then, seek out desert animals at the Brookfield Zoo. At both locations you will learn about the importance of deserts through hands-on activities that support interdisciplinary instruction.

Dec. 8 at the Chicago Botanic Garden
5 – 7:30 p.m.
Fee: $25
Grade level: PreK-12
CPDU credit: 1 per hour, CPS Lane credit: NA, Graduate credit: NA

Enjoy wine and cheese while you wander through the greenhouses, and experience a behind-the-scenes tour of Wonderland Express and the Lenhardt Library. See what the Garden has to offer schools, students, and teachers by participating in some of our most popular programs at hands-on activity stations. New this year, we will raffle special prizes including a free guided field trip ($115 value), a Sleuthmobile tram tour for a class ($75 value), Garden Shop and Garden Café gift certificates ($20 value), and more!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Last night I attended the world premiere of the documentary "Carbon Nation" at Millennium Park. It's a feel-good 90 minutes worth of solutions to our carbon intense industrial aged culture. It's not about limitations to our lifestyles, or going backwards, but, rather, about radically reducing the use of fossil fuels and creating a cleaner world, based largely on efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal. It's as inspirational as much as Gore's "Inconvient Truth" was depressing. We don't need buzz kills, we need a price to be placed on pollution to allow for our creativity and innovation to flourish.

I scanned the audience. There were a number of grade school aged kids at the show (in addition to the college-aged set and their t-shirts) and the movie did offer hope, e.g. highlighting business people involved in growing industries. It showed teenagers installing rooftop solar panels and recommended kids become engineers. It mentioned how a decrease in the use of fossil fuels will mean a more human labor intensive world.

That being said, a movie can cover only so much. So, while I enjoyed the parts of "Carbon Nation" which draw the connections between the health of our local air, water and soil with the use of subsidized fossil fuels, it wasn't about kids or for kids. There's another documentary I'd like to see and its appears to be more about getting kids outside, to give them a chance to bond with, and fall in love with, the earth, rather than stuck in front of electronic screens. It's called "Play Again." If you'd like to be involved in hosting a screening, let me know. Here's the link:

And, oh, here's the link on information for Carbon Nation: