Creativity at Grace: Head of School’s Message, October 2018

A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life . . . Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Our first admission program for parents this year focused on the arts at Grace. Prospective parents had time to experience art and music as if they were students with our talented teachers, Kristin Smith and Emily Gould. We chose this focus to highlight the value of creativity as a mindset at Grace, not just in these two disciplines, but throughout our curriculum. Our mission statement has included a commitment to the promotion of creativity for students for close to 60 years. And as we continue to grow and evolve as an institution with an eye toward the skills most necessary for our students now and in the future, we are delighted to see an emerging emphasis on creativity as one of these necessary mindsets.

The World Economic Forum recently surveyed 350 executives across 9 industries in 15 of the world’s biggest economies to generate a report on the The Future of Jobs. In this report, the top three skills highlighted as important for the job market in 2020 include complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. As an educator, I would argue that problem solving and critical thinking skills are both amplified by a healthy dose of creativity.

At Grace, students have dedicated time to unleash their creativity as artists and musicians. Beyond these disciplines, they have time each week to enter our SCIL (Super Creator Imagination Lab) space and work with our science and technology teacher and Director of Innovation, Christine Comas, to extend their learning three dimensionally by doing free-form tinkering and building, or participating in specific design challenges. Giving our students time and space to create allows them to see their thinking in action and observe an idea or a problem from a new angle. Many times, it requires them to work together and to extend one another’s ideas. It also ignites their curiosity about what they are learning in new and fresh ways.

Recess on our 11-acre campus is another way that creativity blossoms during open-ended play. Most days at school, you can look out to the playground and see complex games underway. Groups of students might be hard at play, structuring their own games and challenges; or they may be working together collecting natural elements for a pretend cooking project or for a natural sculpture or scene. Students collaborate creatively each day on our playground, and they require no adult direction to carry out their vision.

This play and creating — both planned and spontaneous — that happens at Grace makes me think of the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy uses many elements of nature to create his permanent and semi-permanent pieces. He writes: “Ideas must be put to the test. That’s why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas. There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. I’ve had what I thought were great ideas that just didn’t work.”

Giving Grace students ample time and space to explore, iterate, test, and most of all create, continues to be a worthy way to help them realize their ideas both big and small and to cultivate their creative selves. Because creating often requires courage, we are committed to practicing and allowing students to try. We want to give them opportunities to grapple with the fact that they may not realize their vision the first time, and help them develop the courage to try again. We often ask our students what they wonder about or how they can best show us what they are thinking. We will also continue to ask them what they want to create and bring into the world.