By Holly B.F. Warren (Atelierista and creator of the Think Tank)
As I reflect on how COVID-19 has completely reshaped our global landscape, the word that walks along my fingertips and spills onto paper is “challenge” for all families, carers and teachers.
Being forced to move our teaching environments so quickly online has eradicated us from reality and has sent us into an outer space atmosphere and environment that feels just like a sci-fi film. With very little notice and hardly any background on virtual school, communities have had to accept, rethink, reshape and adapt to online learning, not by choice, but through need.
And the word “need” might be the threshold of this new reality. The lockdown has highlighted the significance of our needs, but what exactly are our needs? How many different kinds of needs are now present? How can need become a creative path through experimentation, discovery and revelation of new possibilities?
And, could one of our current needs be imagination? Can it aid us to analyse the present and discover positive aspects of the crisis?
Let’s look at the word “need” closely. A need is something that is essential for a healthy life. Humans need interaction at different levels—emotional, physical and social—but, as humans are individuals, interaction can happen differently at different times during our lives. However, imagination helps us use the past and present to build our future and read in-between the lines. Under challenging circumstances, such as the ones we are going through, where lives are potentially at risk, imagination plays an important part in leading us and revealing new opportunities before us. Simply put, imagination helps us interact in new ways at deeper levels.
The Think Tank: Online
In the Think Tank, during the lockdown between March 2020 and June 2020, imagination, creativity and teamwork unfurled the hidden power of uniqueness.
While children and families faced the challenge of being constrained and isolated from the physical school environment, being forced to work completely uninfluenced by the person sitting/working next to you unleashed an explosion of creative problem-solving techniques and approaches.
Moving the Think Tank online consisted of posting activities online with a limited amount of guidance, allowing the freedom of experimentation, and welcoming open-ended pieces. Each child and family worked on their own on the activity proposed while in their own homes with materials they had available to them. These pieces were then uploaded online and shared through a video presentation I made for the larger class/group to see. This community, who had not had the possibility of seeing others’ work in the process of making it, were in awe by the diversity, uniqueness and dynamism that emerged when they got to view each other’s creations. These video presentations threaded together the community’s incredible efforts and was a celebration of the work done at home and the joint efforts of all those involved.
Families that were able to work with their children rediscovered their latent and dormant creativity. Families that had shied away, thinking that they were unable to be creative, or had shunned their creativity due to work or other commitments, were inspired to participate. The children were so surprised at what their peers had made that, in many cases, they encouraged their parents to participate however they could.
The Think Tank is a creative, imaginative environment free from the constraints and pressures of academic performance. In an almost invisible way, it weaves together subjects and academic domains where theories are brought to light through the weaving of competencies and interconnectivity of knowledge.
Here are a couple of examples of the video presentations I mentioned above. I hope that these presentations will inspire you and possibly allow you to step inside an unusual school day/activity, where you might find fertile ground for imagination without boundaries.
May these videos inspire, propose and allow creativity and imagination to keep flowing.
The children and families were asked to collect flowers and petals in their gardens or in the neighbourhood and create a picture with them by looking for a pattern or inspiration in their shape and colour.
The proposal here was to make a pair of magic shoes that could make magic and take the children on wondrous adventures.
What is the Think Tank?
The Think Tank (Warren, 2019) environment is a setting created to celebrate, stimulate, enhance and develop creativity through connections. It is designed by the students and the atelierista/art studio teacher. Initially inspired by Loris Malaguzzi’s educational approach, where the child freely expresses his/her ideas, interests, concepts and theories and sets the ground for exploratory adventures. It has evolved into what the children have described as “the place where your ideas come true.”
To find out more, come join Holly B.F. Warren in her journey with students in the Think Tank projects included below…