By Cecily Heras (MEd student, SFU; Educator; Coordinator, Imagination Champions Learning Series)
Just as the sun was setting with spectacular pinks and yellows on November 20, 15 K-12 educators from the Lower Mainland gathered for a fun, engaging, interactive, informative, and imaginative two hours. This was the first session in the Imagination Champions Professional Learning Series, a four-part workshop series hosted by CIRCE and sponsored by community partner, Envision Financial.
What is Imagination?
Leading by example, Dr. Gillian Judson story-shaped the workshop, helping participants access their own imaginative capabilities in envisioning the possible, not just the actual. Cohort members explored just what is meant by the term imagination, using visual means and discussion to get to the bottom of this contentious word. Though misconceptions abound, imagination encompasses more than just flights of fancy. In order to understand imagination and its significance, Dr. Judson shared Lev Vygotsky’s (2003) view that
“…imagination, as the basis of all creative activity, is an important component of absolutely all aspects of cultural life, enabling artistic, scientific, and technical creation alike.”
Imagination is the essence of discovery; it is the generative, the reaching out feature of the mind that fuels creation/innovation. Those in our cohort knew this instinctively, yet they feel the tensions created by needing to convince those who still misunderstand its more comprehensive meaning.
Partway through the workshop, Dr. Judson introduced the following “Imagination Challenge”: Participants had a short amount of time to design a new utensil or device that would allow people to share a big, greasy, delicious bowl of popcorn in sanitary ways. (It is flu season after all). Groups came up with a wide range of inventions: the KernelPolt which catapults popcorn into your mouth, no hands necessary; the Bib&Bucket, a handy, reusable contraption which hangs your snack around your neck to eat at your leisure; the Separator, a redesigned popcorn bag which has individual openings near the bottom for personal access; and the CompostaBowl, a repurposed napkin, hand-molded into a stylish and eco-friendly option.
The Power of Story
To finish the session, Dr. Judson delved into human beings’ primary learning tool: story. Story & Storytelling 101: Imagination Unplugged displayed how story grows imagination, motivates, and unites people as it shapes information to reveal its emotional force. Story is a necessary condition for change, for without its affect, there will not likely be an effect. The cohort shared thoughts on the different ways stories can teach, not just through fiction, but also through facts. By drawing awareness to the cognitive tools that shape stories, such as dramatic tension, heroic qualities, and binary opposites, our cohort had a chance to share and design an upcoming lesson. By finding where the tension lay in their topic, and considering how a change of context could help develop a competency like critical thinking, our cohort were ready to go back to their schools and share their new knowledge with students and colleagues.
The Teacher’s Role in Imagination
With plentiful laughter and friendly chatting, each of the 15 participants took away a folder full of resources to help with their own imaginative praxis within the classroom. Teacher disposition plays a large role in allowing students to lead the way through their own imaginative learning- learning that can include inquiries and experiments which may lay outside of the teacher’s plans. Our cohort displayed just the right qualities of open-mindedness, willingness to try new things, and the knowledge that failure is, more often than not, a valuable learning experience.
Looking to the Future
By collaborating with others of like-mind, our 2019/2020 Imagination Champion cohort of perfinkers (those who perceive, feel, and think concurrently) are off to a great start! Our next session in January will look at imaginative processes and programs supporting student inquiry: Learning in Depth, Imaginative Ecological Education and The Walking Curriculum.