Behind the Blog

Behind the Blog
My name is Cindy Kruse and I've been learning from elementary students for the past 16 years. I enjoy discovering new technology and implementing it in the classroom, absolutely love literacy, and am passionate about Responsive Classroom. I am constantly striving to learn new and innovative ways to teach students in order to provide authentic, interesting, and joyful classrooms.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Imagine that!

My mother was the most creative person I know.  She once confessed to me that she felt her need to create something was just like the need to breathe...she just had to do it in order to feel alive.  Often she would get up at 4:30 in the morning because she was so excited to work on a project she had just begun (making a purse out of a suit jacket, figuring out a pattern for a hat crocheted from plastic grocery bags, or creating a watch band from antique buttons).  When she was creating, she was "in the zone" - oblivious to time, the need to eat, and of course the mess surrounding her space - which she always explained, was absolutely necessary in order for her to create.

You may be wondering where I've been for the past months as I have taken a brief hiatus from this blog.  My mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer last June.  I was fortunate enough to have nine months after her diagnosis to spend precious time with her.  We sewed, knitted, quilted, and crafted our way through chemo and radiation.  We were entrapped in a creative frenzy of our own making.  Last November, my mom was featured at the Cancer Center in her own "Artist Exhibit".  Although she had completed her last radiation treatment that very day, she was exuberant, excited about sharing her creations with others.

                                                        Mom and I at her "Art Exhibit"

             Notice the "Mitten Tree" in the background...they were created from old sweaters!

During the past year, I've learned how important creativity is to our "human selves".  The ability to create something new - whether it is an original idea, new invention, work of art, ....or even a watch band made out of buttons, is what makes the human race so special.  This ability is what sets us apart from the rest of creation.

Creativity, or more specifically the lack of it, is a hot topic in education as well as in the business world.  With the speed at which our world is evolving, we need creative individuals....those that can imagine a new way....adapt, to create a better version....envision something we never thought possible.  This is why the business world has teamed up with educators to promote the 21st Century Skills.  It comes as no surprise that creativity is an essential part of this framework. 

However, in the classrooms our rush to cover the topics deemed as "essential" prohibits us from allowing children the time to explore and really create something new.  The funny thing about just can't rush it.  Creativity takes time.  Time to imagine, reflect, rework, and even "play around".  If you study the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy or Webb's Depth of Knowledge you'll see "create" at the top of the hierarchy....this is what educators should strive for in the classroom.  Yet ask any classroom teacher and they'll tell it like it is - who has the time for that?

My mom taught me an important lesson for my personal life as well as in the classroom...creativity must be nurtured in order to bloom.   While all of us possess this innate ability to create, not many choose to take the time to pursue it or build an environment to encourage it .....we simply don't allow ourselves that precious "time".  How often have you heard an adult state sadly, "I'm just not that creative"? 

Young children (who admittedly seem to have all the time in the world) begin their lives full of creative potential.  I recently heard a story that illustrates my point.... A little girl was drawing a picture in school.  The teacher asked, "What are you drawing?"  The little girl replied, "I'm drawing a picture of God!"  The teacher quickly responded, "But nobody knows what God looks like."  The little girl confidently retorted, "Well, they will in a minute."  

According to Ken Robinson in his book Out of our Minds:  Learning to be Creative, "Everyone has huge creative capacities.  The challenge is to develop them.  A culture of creativity has to involve everybody, not just a select few."   What steps will you take to allow your creativity to flourish?  Better yet, what will you do as an educator in the coming year to nurture creativity in your classroom?  Stay tuned as I continue to discuss creativity in the coming weeks with ideas you can implement in the new school year.  In the meantime.... just imagine what it might look like!  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Designed to play!

During the "Sharing" portion of our daily "Morning Meeting" today I challenged my students to reflect on their weekend and then fill in the blank with a verb.  "This weekend I ______ed."  While it was a bit challenging for my 4th and 5th graders to stick to one verb (they all wanted to add more details), we managed to gather some fascinating data which fueled an interesting discussion.  More than 90% of my students responded with, "This weekend I played!"  We had fun asking specific questions to reveal more interesting details of our weekend adventures, however the discussions that followed were the most interesting...Is it important to play?  Can we learn from playing?  If so, what can we learn?  Most importantly, how can we incorporate play in our instructional settings? 

If indeed we can learn from playing, then...why isn't there time to play in school?  I had a hard time suppressing a smile because that very question was the topic in the teacher's lounge among the kindergarten teachers during lunch earlier.  However, I need to be honest...I was contemplating "the importance of play" this weekend myself, so I confess to "setting up" the conversations.  I was eager to hear what the kids and teachers had to say on this topic.  I wasn't surprised by any of their discussions.  

I began to investigate my thoughts on this topic after I watched this video of a little boy named Caine that turned "play" into quite an exciting learning experience.  After watching the video, I'm sure that you too will recognize the importance of play.  

This subject has been the discussion of many psychologists and education gurus.  Research points to these facts:  humans are designed to play (those that don't play have serious mental issues), however the amount of time we spend playing has decreased since 1970.  A revealing study of gifted children (the Terman Study) concluded that those who play actually live longer.   It is believed that "play" is credited with building those all important executive function skills.  Executive function includes the ability to organize, plan, pay attention and remember details, and the ability to self-regulate (use self-control). 

So what are we waiting for?  Parents, teachers, and all those that wish for joyful learning experiences in the classroom and home...let the play begin!