Creativity has become a commodity that is in short supply. Some thinkers place part of the blame for a lack of creativity on those who are entrusted in the care of children: the public education system. As a result, several innovative schools have developed new ways of educating children in a way that sparks creativity.
Montessori schools are built on the idea that children are natural learners and that freedom and independence are the key to maximizing a child’s creative development. At a Montessori school, students are given a broad range of activities from which to choose. Students can work for as long as they want and are uninterrupted. Another interesting characteristic is that students are put in classrooms where they are expected to work alongside older students.
Montessori herself believed that children construct their own minds based on interactions that they have with the environment. By allowing children to choose what they wish to learn, Montessori believed that they would make decisions that would lead them to develop optimally.
Montessori Schools Have Some Structure
Montessori schools are not completely undirected. The environment created for students at Montessori schools are intended to maximize creative development by being built around the stages of child development. Montessori discovered that there are several distinct stages of development that children experience, referred to as planes.
Another innovative approach to a child’s education is that found in the Waldorf schools. This curriculum seems in stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all approach. Students are seen as having a unique destiny that can only be realized by providing the students with a diverse range of opportunities. Waldorf schools try to develop both a child’s creative capacities and the child’s ability to think analytically.
Age-Related Activities at Waldorf Schools
The Waldorf schools are set up to take advantage of the ways in which children learn through experiences, imitation and sensations. Instead of drilling students with abstract concepts, the Waldorf school was designed to create a curriculum where students would learn by engaging in activities.
When children turn seven, activities become more artistic and emphasis is placed on cultivating an emotional life. As children reach adolescence, the goal of the school shifts toward concepts of social responsibility and deeper understanding. Waldorf schools consider how students develop the ability to think abstractly and critically and try to help facilitate these developments.
Conventional classrooms have rows of desks confined in rooms that are lucky to have windows. Students are isolated from the outside world, except when they are occasionally allowed to go on a field trip. This approach is radically abandoned by forest schools, which are programs that use the woods as a place to teach students about the natural environment. Students also learn how to work together and learn mathematics and communication skills.
Like with other schools intended to spark creativity, the forest schools are designed to be guided by the interests of the child. Forest schools try to spark curiosity, which is one of the key ingredients in a self-directed education. Children in forest schools also tend to be more relaxed than if they were in a conventional classroom. Relaxed children are more likely to think more creatively and deeply. The more relaxed demeanor that children have can be explained by attention restoration theory, which is the theory that people are able to concentrate more when they spend time in nature. Nature is also able to reduce stress, which typically reduces creativity.
Betsy Hannigan is a school district administrator and guest writer at BestEducationDegrees.com, a site that helps prospective students learn how to get an online master's in education.