Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Lesson In Creativity: There’s a Gnome in the Art Room

I wanted to share with you a simple method to help to spark creativity for you and your students that I use in my classroom.

Some of you who have met me or joined me in workshops at the Kansas Art Educators Conference have heard, there is a Gnome in my art room, Gnorbert Alexander Gnome.  Gnorbert is my classroom hall pass, but more importantly Gnorbert is a lesson in creativity.

So, what is creativity?  The truth of the matter is simple, creativity can be whittled down to the basic use of our imagination.  Not always does imaginative play and thought have to be immersed in a fantasy world.  Our imagination allows us to problem solve and work out different ideas.  As we age, this becomes referred to as creativity and out of the box thinking.  Those who we think of as good problem solvers, are individuals that encompass a high level of creativity.

So, you might ask how can we spur creativity? There is no simple answer, each individual responds differently to events and ideas.  Yet, it can be fostered and the seed planted to get in the creative mindset.  This is where my good friend Gnorbert A. Gnome comes in.

Gnorbert is a simple three dimensional garden gnome that I originally painted in our school colors with an art pallet on his hat. Gnorbert accompanies the children in the hallway when they need to leave the classroom identifying them immediately as coming from the art room.  It makes it very easy for any student or staff member to say, how is art today.  That simple communication sparks interest in the child, and lets them know others in the building care about what they are up to.  When headed to the restroom Gnorbert stands guard outside the door, and reminds you to wash your hands, Gnorbert simply doesn’t like getting dirty.   Here Gnorbert is not only useful as a hall pass, but as a tool to remind children of how we use good hygiene.  What the children enjoy most however, Gnorbert goes on adventures.  Gnorbert can be found in pictures of famous art work.  He takes pictures of himself at museums, around our hometown, outside playing, and around the school to name a few.

For example.  One weekend the children came back to school and I told them I believed Gnorbert went to play at the park over the weekend because I found pictures of him on my camera.  At the end of class I told them I would share the pictures with them if they worked their very hardest and had wonderful craftsmanship on their projects.  As I shared the pictures and we opened up a dialog on how the pictures could have been taken.  Did Gnorbert have a friend help him?  How could he move or get to the park?  At the end of our discussion every child was involved using their imagination to think of creative ways Gnorbert  could have gotten around.  We wondered what Gnorbert would do next, where he would go, if he would ever change his clothing, if we would see him move and other fun ideas.  This simple short exercise allowed the children to use their imagination, to be silly, to be creative in a non-threatening environment because all the children were being silly about this little gnome.

Since Gnorbert’s first crazy pictures the children ask what Gnorbert has been up to, they continue to think of creative things Gnorbert could do.  We make up stories and Gnorbert has become as much a part of our classroom as each student.  Gnorbert was gifted a car he now sits in at my desk.  He does indeed change his clothing with the change of the seasons.  He has had wonderful art work drawn for him and he has even mysteriously appeared in other special area teachers rooms.  One student and his family even took Gnorbert with them on their family vacation to the Bahamas over spring break!  The learning experience gained in this easy exercise in using their imagination can be seen in the creativity and willingness to try new media, ideas, techniques and more in the art room.  It is my continued hope that as my classes learns about creativity with our friend Gnorbert, the lesson will trickled down into their regular education classrooms in the form of creative problem solving and out of the box thinking.  That lessons or ideas that seem difficult will suddenly feel more manageable because they can see the lesson in a new light.

So that is the story of Gnorbert.  This idea can be used in nearly any classroom, and of course, it does not have to be a gnome used for travel, any item could work.  Taking pictures of the hall pass in different areas, locations, at events and more is fun for the educator as well, and you will find your own creativity tapped into!  It has opened up dialog for me on creativity and the importance of art with individuals around the world.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  As always if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me!

Your partner in education,

KAEA Co-Elementary Representative