Students, teachers hope for more creativity in classroom


Some of the villages created by students for Kristen Reed’s French class

Madi Mertz

Photo by Mikaela Acton
Back in the ’50s, most of what students learned was a practice of memorization. Memorize all of the then 48 state capitals, memorize the presidents, memorize a poem, multiplication tables, even prime numbers.
Arts were few and far between, as what children needed to learn back then was based on rote memorization, drama teacher Mary Coffield said.
“I don’t think American education in its foundations was a model that incorporated creativity. Its purpose, originally, was to provide the democracy with people who could contribute economically and function in a democratic type of society,” Coffield said.”So the emphasis was on training for a literacy, basic mathematics, a basic sense of history and culture, and the emphasis was on rote learning, and a knowledge base.”
As time has progressed, however, and society has adapted, so have schools. There have been more efforts to keep students motivated in what they’re interested in than to memorize assorted lists. However, consistently throughout time, students have felt as though they don’t have an outlet for their own creativity. The school system might be getting crafty with their curriculum, but many students find an art class, drama or choir to be the only way to create something they care about.
“I think there’s an increasing amount of effort being made to maintain the arts in school, because there is a growing recognition that as there’s more studies on cognitive development and brain based learning, and understanding how the brain works,” Coffield said. “Firmer synaptic connections are made when children and young people are engaged in kinesthetically involving creative effort, and that the arts, music and visual arts and drama, have more of a place than it was thought.”
Coffield teaches drama along with Senior Composition classes, both of which come with artistic expression built into the class description. She feels as though schools have come a long way in their views of what students will need later in life, and she believes strongly in skills such as media literacy and collaboration, which are now more emphasized more than they were during her time in high school.
Though the mindset of many in education may have come a long way since Coffield graduated in the ’70s, some say the education system needs to be further reformed. Student teacher Galen Hoft notices some places where creativity is almost nonexistent, and hopes for that to change sometime in the near future.
“The only classes that I teach are AP classes, and those are very structured, so the amount of creativity in those classes is very slim, which is something that we talked a lot about in my college classes that teaching to the test is hard,” Hoft said. “It’s hard for students and it’s hard for students to show their creativity but the teachers here are all very enthusiastic.”
Seeing as advanced placement classes are built around the AP test whether students plan to take the test or not, it is difficult to derail teachers from their AP test track mindsets. Although the end of the test serves as a light at the end of the tunnel for AP students, students such as sophomore Jodie Bappe can’t help but feel oppressed in her AP class.
“I get so mad in [AP World] because I don’t think we go a single day without talking about the AP test,” Bappe said. “School’s been more focused on like, doing well on the standardized tests and stuff because of course that’s what we’re funded on.”
Teachers say they work not to be held back by standardized testing, however, and those teachers often go out of their way to unleash students’ creativity, like French teacher Kristen Reed. Reed is known for frequently incorporating arts and crafts into her students’ homework.
“Many students are hands-on or visual learners, and I feel like the more crafty assignments we do help reinforce the material that can be otherwise boring or hard to grasp,” Reed said. “I also feel like most students appreciate using their creative side, and can help lower stress about a topic.”
Reed finds time throughout the school year to devote to making lost item signs all written in French, or to have them storyboard a short story they’re reading. While some students may see this as a waste of time, others see it as their favorite part of the class.
Sophomore Neil Cathro is in Reed’s class and works extremely hard on the projects she gives them. One such project he’s prepared for the Christmas season is an intricate Christmas village made entirely of paper, which he will fill with French words he learned in Reed’s class.
“It makes you able to apply the information you learn in class. Like in this project, we research an area of the world that speaks French, and then we have to apply all that information into a village,” Cathro said. “It makes it more fun, for me at least [and] the creative kids, because then it’s not strictly relaying information; you actually get to make stuff.”
Cathro said his artwork reinforces the curriculum they’re covering in what could otherwise be an exceedingly boring class. But he, along with many others, notices a strict divide between purely creative projects and those with too many guidelines. Too many guidelines can lead to trouble in a student’s learning. The new endeavor seems to be what reinforces creativity for many students. To create something themselves and remember that product that they made can help them to remember the curriculum.
“I feel like creativity is misunderstood a lot of times people think that when students learn something, and they can produce it, that they’ve been creative,” Coffield said. “It can be very entertaining, but it isn’t necessarily creative, because the students didn’t necessarily bring a lot of new endeavor to it.”
By Madi Mertz
Do you feel as if your classes ask you to show a creative side?