Creativity: An Ingredient in Every Child’s Cupboard

We recently ran a post, “Curious about Curiosity? noting that, among other things, curious children are better able to grasp basic math and reading than their less curious comrades. Another success ingredient, closely linked to curiosity and also associated with higher academic achievement, is creativity.

What do we mean when we speak of creativity? While uninspiring definitions abound, consider these three definitions on creativity and creative thinkers:

  •  “…. imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena.”  -Roger von Oech, author of A Whack on the Side of the Head
  • “… a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements and disharmonies as well as identifying, searching for solutions, making guesses or formulation of hypotheses, and possibly modifying and restating them, and experimenting to find results and finally communicating the results.” -John E. Penick, researcher who has studied the relationship between academic success and creativity, author of Teaching with Purpose: Closing the Research- Practice Gap
  • “… the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” -Rollo May, existential psychologist and author of The Courage to Create

Neuroscientist Tina Seelig teaches courses in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Stanford. Too often, she says, the creative process is viewed narrowly, associated with only the arts. She has developed an “Innovation Engine model” to help us think about creativity as both an internal (attitude, imagination and knowledge) and external (resources, habitat, and culture) process. She also offers several intriguing ideas to unleash creativity. You can watch her “Crash Course in Creativity” TEDx talk here.

Before we help kids unlock their creativity, it makes sense to first consider our own relationship with creativity. Here’s some questions to toss around. You can ask these questions in the context of yourself, your team, school, family, or business.

  • Do I/we value creativity?
  • How do I/we think of creativity? Do I/we need to expand my/our view of creativity?
  • When asking a question of others (or ourselves), do I/we wait for that second, third, or fourth right answer?
  • Do I/we tend to explore or judge/shut down unique and odd-ball ideas and questions?
  • How do I/we model creativity? (This doesn’t mean breaking out the oil paints and creating the next Mona Lisa. Rather, dragging out questions like: Do I allow myself to play with questions? Do I ask open-ended questions? Am I willing to take risks with sharing ideas, even if they seem a bit whacky?)
  • Do I/we reward creativity? If so, how?
  • What am I/What are we doing to nurture a culture of creativity in within the home/school/business environment? Am I/Are we doing anything to stifle creativity?

Come back next week, and we’ll offer specific strategies for strengthening children’s innate ability to be creative thinkers. Who knows, you may even reclaim the creative genius locked away inside yourself!

The Gift of Presence

 

“The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift. To come – unguarded, undistracted – and be fully present, fully engaged with whoever we are with at that moment.” – John Eldredge

 

 

Winter break is almost here. One of our 12,000+ kids can’t wait. He’s looking forward to spending time with his dad. It’s a good reminder that one of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of ourselves. Holidays can be a fun, yet hectic time. It helps to take a minute and breathe in. Breathe out. And be present.

Wondering what fun things there are for kids to do in Kalamazoo over the winter break? Check out this list of “40+ Things To Do During Winter Break Around Kalamazoo” that KZOOkids pulled together.

And of course, on December 31st from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, there is much to enjoy at the annual New Year’s Fest: music, magic, comedy, exhibitions, fireworks, and food. There will be a ball drop & fireworks at midnight in Bronson Park. For event information, go here.

As the days get darker and colder, the holidays can also be a time of stress. People can be affected by feelings of hopelessness, depression, and negative mood. It’s good to know that Gryphon Place has a 24-hour HELP-Line. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, dial 260-381-HELP (381-4357). There is someone who will listen, help you sort through your thoughts, let you know where you can turn for help or can directly send help to you, to help get you through the moment, the hour, the night.

We’re taking a blogging break at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids and will return with fresh, weekly posts beginning Tuesday, January 8th. Until then, be present and take care!

Curious about curiosity?

“It is so important to allow children to bloom and to be driven by their curiosity.”                                -May-Britt Moser, neuroscientist

 

Curiosity, that desire to know, may have been blamed for killing the cat but it can contribute to academic success. Did you know that recent studies have found that higher curiosity is associated with higher academic achievement?

Curious children are better able to grasp basic math and reading than their less curious comrades. Researchers at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development (their finding published this year in Pediatric Research) have found that the relationship between a child’s curiosity and academic achievement was not related to a child’s gender or self-regulatory capacities. In addition, the more curious the child, the more likely he or she may perform better in school– regardless of economic background. In fact, the lead researcher in this study, Prachi Shah, said that “the association of curiosity with academic achievement is greater in children with low socioeconomic status.” Shah goes on to say that “promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, under-recognized way to address the achievement gap.”

Curiously enough, a different study published just this year in Journal of Child and Family Studies, found that teens who are curious also tend to be more self-compassionate. This makes sense. If a teen is open to exploring and appreciating new experiences, it follows that the teen may be more kind and accepting of his or her self.

Curiosity is the perfect fuel that drives us to seek and learn, innovate, and create. Curious children are more aware and open to trying things and failing, and learning from those mistakes. Curious kids explore, notice, make connections, and, as other studies suggest, grow up to be curious adults who are non-defensive, non-critical, emotionally expressive, and experience positive relationships with others.

Yet, we all have met people who seem to move through life with a low or empty curiosity fuel tank. Dr. Todd Kashdan, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, has studied curiosity for decades. He says that a lack of curiosity is a breeding ground for such things as discrimination, ignorance, and rigid conformity.

What specific steps can we take to further cultivate curiosity in our children—and ourselves—so that we can thrive and learn to the greatest extent possible? Well, that’s a post for another time. So, keep coming back. Meanwhile, stay curious!

Trotting out Thanks

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”          -Novelist Elizabeth Gilbert

What are you thankful for?

At CIS, we are thankful for you. Your support puts CIS Site Coordinators in the schools, directly in the path of students. So when a student is in need—thanks to you—we are able to step in and work with school and community partners to address needs in a coordinated and accountable manner. Thank you for your generosity and all the wonderful forms it comes in: giving your time, your talents, your financial support and resources.

We know parents are also thankful for your support because you “fill the gaps” for their children. As one parent put it, “I want the best for my child but I can’t give them all that they need. I’m so grateful that CIS connected my child to the services she needed.”

Students and their families may not know your name, but they are grateful for you and the

…backpack filled with school supplies you placed on their back at the start of the school year.

…new shoes you slipped on two hurt feet. “These ones don’t have holes or pinch my feet!”

…tutor who visits weekly to help with reading.

…warm coat and boots you provided.

…Thanksgiving meal they will share and enjoy with their family.

The list of grateful goes on.

So, for as long as we have voices, thank you for loving our 12,000+ kids and giving them the opportunity to be the best students and people they can be!

Go vote and then read this post.

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy.”

Why? Because when you choose to volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.

You join with others to help creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise. By giving just one hour a week of your time you help students in Kalamazoo Public Schools:

Stay and succeed in school
Improve in math or reading
Gain self-esteem and confidence
Have food for the weekend
Be ready for college and a career
Fulfill his or her Promise

Did you know that you are one of 43,000 community volunteers throughout the CIS network who, in 2016-2017, donated your time to 1.56 million students served by 131 affiliated organizations in 25 states and D.C.?

Thank you for casting your support of our 12,000+ children.

Interested in joining forces with our fabulous volunteers? You can change the life of a young person right here in your community by signing up today

Five Fun Fall Facts

Here’s a list of five fun fall facts to enjoy while you sip your pumpkin spice latte or other favorite fall beverage.

One.

This past September, the national organization of Communities In Schools welcomed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of its national board of directors. “Every kid, no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents make, deserves the opportunity to get a good education,” said O’Neal. “My education was critical to my success on and off the court. Being in school gave me self-discipline and showed me the importance of hard work. I always knew that when my playing days were over, nobody could take my education away from me.”  You can read more here.

Two.

Fall ushers in a number of opportunities for students to participate in sports. However, by middle school, 70 percent of students have dropped out of organized sports. The number one reason? It isn’t fun anymore. The good news is that there is a roadmap to fun. A study a few years back found that being a good sport, trying hardand positive coaching came in as the top three most important factors to having fun in youth sports. Winning ranks near the bottom (coming in at 48 out of 81 identified indicators of fun).

 

Three.

John Brandon, partner services coordinator for CIS of Kalamazoo shares this fact: “Fall is when most of our school supplies are donated, and what we receive during this time will be most of what we have to distribute throughout the school year.”

Four.

What does Michigan have in common with Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Iowa, and Rhode Island? According to Candy Store.com, candy corn is our number one choice for Halloween candy. In Michigan, Starbursts ranks second, and Skittles third. To see the most popular Halloween candy state-by-state, check out their interactive U.S. map here. As long as we’re on this topic, did you know that candy corn hasn’t always been called candy corn? It was first called “Chicken Feed.” It came in a box with a rooster drawing and the tagline read: Something worth crowing for.

Five.

Here’s a fun fall fact worth crowing about: Communities In Schools is the nation’s largest provider of Integrated Student Supports. (To learn more about our unique model, go here.) That is a fun fact all year round!

 

Lights On!

Millions of Americans are turning the lights on as part of the 19th annual Lights On Afterschool to emphasize the importance of keeping lights on and doors open for after school programs. National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 25, 2018, and Kalamazoo Public School students have been doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs.

A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores, attendance, and overall academic behavior.

Elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School are coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. Students have been busy writing letters to public officials and stakeholders, making artwork, and more to raise awareness about the need for after school opportunities.

Nationwide, 11.3 million children are alone and unsupervised from 3 to 6 p.m.  After school programs offer not only a safe place to learn and grow, but can serve as a strategic way to address both academic achievement and opportunity gaps. The achievement gap between students from lower- and higher-income families has grown by 40% over the past 30 years. By the sixth grade, middle class students have spent 4,000+ more hours in after school and summer learning opportunities than their low-income peers. Consistent participation in high-quality after school programs can help close and eliminate these gaps.

Parents regularly express their gratitude for having this support within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. “I can’t tell you how many parents say how much they appreciate the homework help their kids receive as part of CIS After School,” says Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.

In Kalamazoo, CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is able to extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

On behalf of all the children who benefit from after school support, thanks for helping us keep the lights on in Kalamazoo.

 

Breaking Ground on Future Home

Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo

Today’s post is brought to you by Pamela Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

In early August, ground was broken for a new development in downtown Kalamazoo. It will be the new home for The Kalamazoo Promise, Southwest Michigan First, and Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP, as well as the new home for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo!

Because of the exceptional generosity of Kalamazoo’s business community, we have benefited from donations of office space and equipment throughout our 15-year history. That has allowed us to allocate financial resources exclusively for the direct benefit of students. Our new space, ready in Summer 2020, will maintain that arrangement – the generous gifts you give to CIS will sustain resources and services to students and schools: CIS site coordinators, recruitment and support of volunteers, coordination of health and dental care, addressing basic needs, providing for vision exams and eyeglasses, and more.

We are honored to be part of a new space that enhances our vision of an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise. We look forward to a visible and central place for collaboration and community engagement to positively impact the lives of students we serve and their families. Bob Jorth, Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise, highlights the unique and important partnership between the Promise and CIS of Kalamazoo that will be enhanced by our co-location in a new space:

“The Kalamazoo Promise is dependent on the system of whole child supports that CIS uses to remove the many obstacles that can divert KPS students from being able to graduate, ready to use The Promise. The co-location of CIS and The Promise mutually enhances the missions and capacity of both organizations. We hope that the Kalamazoo community continues to increase its support for the work of CIS so that the potential of  The Kalamazoo Promise is fully realized—for both individual students and for the community overall.”

We look forward to welcoming you to our new home. And, yes, there will be parking!

Courtesy of TowerPinkster

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will the building be located?

The building will be located at the southwest corner of Water and N. Edwards Streets, across from the Arcadia Creek Festival Site.

When will construction be completed?

Construction is scheduled to be complete in Summer 2020.

What else is in the building?

In addition to offices, there are two floors planned for residential housing that will be available at rates amenable to tenants with a broad mix of incomes. In addition to CIS, other office tenants currently include The Kalamazoo Promise, Southwest Michigan First, and Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP. There will also be a multi-level parking garage with 300+ spots.

We are also excited to share that we will have dedicated space for the CIS Kids’ Closet! Both our staff who pick up donated items for students and our generous donors of clothing, school supplies, and personal care items will have good access. We thank Kalamazoo Public Schools for housing the CIS Kids’ Closet in the interim.

Will this impact what CIS does for kids?

Yes! Among the greatest challenges we have faced is our visibility. The opportunity to be present in this exceptional space will breathe new energy into our efforts to be visible and accessible to our students, their families, our partners and volunteers. Being a part of this unique place where education and economic development come together will foster the continued collaboration and community engagement that is crucial to helping every child in our community fulfill his or her promise. What will remain the same is the continued ability to direct financial resources to students, not to office space.

At the groundbreaking ceremony