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Learning and Creativity Processes

How do they happen? And how can we trigger them?


Jeevitha Ramesh



Five-year-old Preeti loves to perform skits, and with time she also became very expressive in her performance. She believed that it gave her the freedom to explore her surroundings and learn new things from them. She started to show her real emotions creatively, which increased her confidence over time.





Performing a skit makes different parts of the brain wire together that strengthen the temporal lobe functions. As a result, children grow up as good communicators and can improve their emotional and social skills. For example, performing a skit helped Preeti express her emotions better, which is important for a kid’s emotional development (through emotional development, a child can start to understand who they are, what they are feeling, and how they can express themselves better). In the same way, any creative activity, be it painting, dance, music, any artwork, or even playing musical instruments, help children develop emotional, ethical, social, and academic rigour that contributes to holistic learning.


Creativity depends on many factors such as learning, motivation, personality, experience, imagination, environment, etc. The important thing to note is that internal (like imagination, experience) and external factors ( like environment) can enhance an individual’s creativity. Let us understand it from an example. Mr. X came from a family renowned for their artwork. Though he was naturally gifted for his art ( thanks to his genes!), his hard work and commitment also played important roles in making him a successful artist. From this example, one can understand that creativity could be attributed to both internal (genes, brain, personality, values, skills, mind, intrinsic motivation) and external (education, work, finance, technology, cultural influence, and extrinsic motivation) factors.


Most research studies suggest that creativity and learning are two components of human experience. Let us see how they affect one another.


Humans learn continuously from their feelings, imagination, experiences, and their environment. With the right skills and knowledge, learning gets a creative outlet. On the other hand, the process of creativity also leads to learning. For example, if someone attends dance classes, they need to learn the hand gestures, recitals for the dance pieces, etc., to perform it skillfully.


Creative activities allow children to learn with fun. Activities such as storytelling, skits, and play, help children learn without the pressure of learning. Fun team building activities or making children play with their peers can also promote creative thinking in groups and enable them to accept others’ ideas.


Creative activities like singing and dancing, unlike the traditional methods, allow them to express themselves and boost their spatial learning capabilities (helpful in remembering the way home from office or school; having a mental representation of your environment). Neuroscience suggests that dancing improves brain function and boosts memory. At the same time, music acts as a potential therapy and stimulates specific cerebral circuits (it is a pathway in the brain where the neural activity takes place as information moves from one nerve cell to another).


Integrating drawing and painting makes room for visual reflection or visual representation in children. Along with learning, it also helps in promoting their mental health! For example, it helps in reducing stress and anxiety among children. Including creative activities in a classroom setup like asking open-ended questions or involving children in brainstorming sessions can stimulate their imaginative thinking capabilities. In such situations, children will have a chance to come out of their shelves and become a part of a larger group. This freedom of expression also gives them a sense of joy and happiness.


However, you may have noticed that some children do not like certain subjects in school in some situations. This can be due to the teacher or the placement of that class after recess. Studies show that certain factors can obstruct an individual’s creative potential. Children not liking a certain subject is an example of that! Other factors that can block someone’s creative potential include a bad learning environment (if someone is writing poetry in a noisy and crowded place), learning processes (if the technique of performing a creative task is wrong), teacher competencies (if the teacher’s knowledge or skill is inadequate to teach), etc.


The frontal cortex (responsible for higher cognitive functions, namely, memory, problem-solving), hippocampus (plays a role in learning and memory formation), and basal ganglia (responsible for motor learning and executive functions) are the seats of learning in the brain. Creative activities can bring strength to neural connections in these brain regions. Also, this will help in learning any kind of information effectively.


The right mix of creative activities along with academic learning in daily life helps children to be innovative. As it also encourages them to learn new things. As caregivers, one can also do the following things to ensure that children learn creatively:


  • Trigger questioning ability: One of the major ways of developing creative thinking in a child is to let him/her wonder. Explaining various things that will help them become more curious will encourage a child's imaginative skills and problem-solving abilities.


  • Trigger Curiosity of the child: It is the responsibility of the caregivers and parents to give exciting and relevant indications to drive their curiosity towards the proper direction. For example, show them the country’s rich art, let their curiosity trigger how anyone would have done paintings on stone? How did it stay there forever? They may also get interested in painting and express themselves through it.


  • Involving children in meaningful and important discussions: Parents and teachers have a great influence on children. They can bring on a child's curiosity by discussing various topics with them. For example, you may talk about climate change or environmental issues with children to get their ideas to safeguard the environment.


  • Give them Space: It is important to give children enough space to explore freely. They need free space for imagination. Let them spend a few hours at home without any activities so that the child can just roam around and run their imagination wild in whatever they are doing.



A curious mind at all times loves to learn more. Creative activities can build up a curious mindset in children through uncommon ways. But, it is the role of a caregiver to include the right mix of creativity in classrooms and at home to bring out the best in children. The joy of creativity contributes to good health, which will help them possess continued growth in academics.



References


  1. Music and the brain: the neuroscience of music and musical appreciation, Michael Trimble and Dale Hesdorffer. Published online 2017 May 1.PMCID: PMC5618809, Michael Trimble1 and Dale Hesdorffer2,1Institute of Neurology, University College London, UK.

  2. Mula, M. & Trimble, M. R. (2009) Music and madness: neuropsychiatric aspects of music. Clinical Medicine, 9, 83–86.

  3. Pasternak, C. (2007) What Makes Us Human. One World.

  4. Stewart, L., von Kriegstein, K. & Warren, J. D. (2006) Music and the brain: disorders of musical listening. Brain, 129, 2533–2553.

  5. Thaut, M. H. (2005) The future of music in therapy and medicine. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1060, 303–308.

  6. Trimble, M. R. (2007) The Soul in the Brain: The Cerebral Basis of Language, Art, and Belief. Johns Hopkins University Press. Trimble, M. R. (2012) Why Humans Like to Cry. Tragedy, Evolution and the Brain. Oxford University Press.

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