All of this has led me to question if abundance fosters creativity or are learners stifled by it as a result of being overwhelmed? On the end of the spectrum, do constraint and limitation of resources put greater creative juices to work?
I've witnessed this first hand with our own students. During a recent 6th grade history project, students studying ancient civilizations were asked to build a structure representing either China or Egypt. While traditional projects of this sort result in mostly sugar cube pyramids, it was interesting this year to see students rummaging through our Trash for Teaching materials for items of appropriate color and texture to apply to their project.
It might also be said that creativity can manifest itself best in constraint, in the scarcity of resources available. I think back to the scene from Apollo 13 where the team in Houston is tasked with making a square object work in a round opening given the limited materials in the astronauts' lunar module. In this scenario, people are forced through constraint of resources and time to solve a problem with real world implications, in this case life and death. The same can be said for engineering the next great product using the most cost effective materials and efficient manufacturing processes, thereby increasing potential revenue.
I believe both premises to be true when it comes to student creativity. When presented with an abundance of items and the abundance of any given item, students get excited about the prospects of creating something from them. Ideas surface from seeing so many colors, shapes, textures, that might not under other circumstances. Students are heard saying "Let's use these plastic containers to hold water and make the Nile River look real", and "I can make all of these beads look like the skin on the dragon".
In contrast, the imagination can also be challenged when faced with a problem of limitation. "You can build whatever kind of house you want, but it must remain within these property lines, and can only include these materials. You need to make the house light up or have some kind of motion, but are only allowed these electronic supplies." Ahh, that's a topic for the next blog...
What do you think? Creativity through abundance or constraint?