August 22nd, 2009
Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium and Boron…
I found myself singing the elements of the periodic table. In a flash it all came back to me: learning the periodic table at school, studying chemistry, completing a science degree majoring in chemistry, teaching chemistry and science. I thought this stuff was lost forever. After all, when in my life have I ever had to use any of it?
My youngest daughter Mira (who was home for the weekend) walked into the room as I was singing away. She looked at me and said, “You’re still a science geek at heart aren’t you?”
“No”, I replied rather emphatically. My response came out so quickly that even I was surprised. Then, after a second or two I added, “I am interested in the science of life and living.”
It dawned on me how contradictory my response was. Life and living are all about chemistry, only we don’t ever think about it in that way.
The chorus of a favourite song (introduced to me by my wonderful husband) popped into my mind.
Cause we’re all just-
Protons, Neutrons, Electrons
That rest on a Sunday
Work on a Monday and someday soon
We’ll be singing the old tunes
I’ll be sitting on the porch with you
Then I’ll die and I’ll
Fly off into the blue!
Protons, Neutrons, Electrons by The Cat Empire
All these thoughts were sparked by reading a post about an interactive periodic table. I was surprised how this really excited me. As I clicked away all I could think about was how I wished I had a tool like this available to me when I was learning and teaching chemistry and science. Then I discovered the periodic table of videos. My mind was racing with possibilities. I found myself planning learning activities and then I remembered, those days were over for me! These days I very rarely get the joy of trying to create an exciting learning opportunity for others so I search them out for myself.
Even though we have made huge inroads in the way we deliver and think about mainstream education and workplace learning it still feels like we have a long way to go. Resistance to change appears to be the ‘normal’ human condition. Creativity is still not valued. Many traditional perceptions of learning and education have not moved with the times. Reversing this situation has to be a priority. Keep what’s working, throw out what isn’t, be creative and experiment (you see, the scientist is in there) to discover better ways of doing things. By doing this you will keep the learning process alive and dynamic for yourself and others. Be excited by all the possibilities; we live in exciting times where things that weren’t even possible a month ago may be possible today. Express yourself in different wys. Discover your hidden talents and don’t be afraid to use them.
Back in 2006 Sir Ken Robinson gave a thought provoking TED talk where he highlighted how creativity is not being nurtured in education. Instead, he says it is being undermined. I believe this situation is even worse outside of the education system. How many of us have an opportunity to be creative in our jobs? How many of us are encouraged to try to do things that are a bit different? How many of us even feel we are creative or feel comfortable doing something creative? I hear over and over again adults saying to me, “I am not creative!”
I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”
… kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong.
Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.
And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.
And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.
Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it. So why is this?
Source: TED talk, Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
The latest Air New Zealand in-flight safety video is a great example of creativity to get people to pay attention and learn what they will need to do in the event of an emergency on their flight. I have sat through many of these safety instructions over the years and paid minimal attention to them just like most of the other passengers. As Skinny comments, this new safety presentation of the same old message has had quite an impact on passengers; no longer are passengers not paying attention, instead they are counting the rows to the nearest emergency exit.
Firstly there’s a huge thankyou to the flight crew that painted their bodies and appeared naked for the Air New Zealand video safety message. It is absolutely brilliant and a better-than-perfect way at instructing passengers on the safety measures and procedures on board the aircraft.
Many times in the past I would slump in my seat and never even glance at the monitors while the video droned on about following the lights to the exit, or adopting the brace position.
Today when the video played I swear to God nearly everyone was watching that screen. It wasn’t just because the staff were naked (that was part of it I’m sure) -but it was more that they kept your attention and gave you everything you needed to know with good humour and good grace, and with a wry smile.
I even saw people turn and actually count the rows of seats to their nearest exit. That’s a stunning success.
Opportunities to do something different are everywhere. Actually, what better time than during a recession to look at everything we do with different eyes. This is about the way we choose to live and work. It is about our willingness to learn. To try something different. To accept if it doesn’t work and try doing it another way. We can make changes. We can engage our creativity. The challenge is to take action and not just talk about it and think about it.
No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it.
We need to see the world anew.