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An exploration of creativity shines hope into the world!

Journey with us into how creativity is explored and how it is applied in context to real-world issues impacting students.

Katie Kroeger

ISDenver 8th-grade learners recently embarked on a journey to define creativity. And when I was invited by my colleagues to see the outcome firsthand, you better believe I jumped at the opportunity. What I witnessed had my jaw on the floor. As a prospective ISDenver parent, I want to give you a glimpse into the brilliant work our Middle School learners are involved in every day.

My colleague and our Middle Years Programme Coordinator, Lauren Cantor, helped me understand the context of the project.

Spearheaded by our Language & Literature Subject Lead, Leah Yates, and in further collaboration with L&L teacher Tricia Holloway, our 8th graders were asked to explore the statement of inquiry: Creators can, by developing a unique context, compel the audience to consider new perspectives and question our socially constructed belief systems. One of their tasks was to first research and defend their own definition of creativity. Part of their research was based on interviewing a variety of community members, including parents and administration, on how creativity shows up in their lives. Then, they explored how creativity fuels creators around us, from artists to doctors, musicians to activists, entrepreneurs to engineers.

Creativity Quote



Next, things got pretty cool. Students took their research and the definition of creativity they created to Identify a belief or belief system that they feel passionately about changing through constructing a creative piece through the medium of their choice. And the outcomes? Wow. Jaw dropping.

Through the structure of a gallery walk, students presented their pieces including: poetry, visual arts, short films, sculpture, and painting to reflect the need for a change in belief system. It was humbling to speak with students about how their pieces evoked change. Some of their belief systems included speaking up about racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, marginalized populations, and finding one’s voice.

Students were asked to critique their work in a formal writing piece through which they had to analyze and evaluate their own pieces, including how they were able to convey a message through their visual presentation.

The following excerpts are from student presentations and / or self-critiques. They are humbling examples of how this project has promoted students to see how each of us have the responsibility to reflect on our role in promoting stronger communities.

Building acceptance in the face of tremendous social pressure
One student wrote a compelling poem titled, ‘When Society Lies’ to express how “Society is expecting people to have a perfect balance of following the standards and not following them. The poem also mentions that people who don't conform, ‘those of us undefined by these rules’ are erased and excluded from society. When the author uses ‘us,’ it can be connected to trans and non-binary people, people who do not fit some of the standards. This is especially apparent when the author writes, ‘We have no rules, no guidelines to follow, / But yet we are still boxed in by those trying to eradicate us”.

Challenging Racism
Another student created a gingerbread scene “to portray how racial segregation still plays a big role in your lives… Racial segregation is still a massive issue in the US. Although we are equals, some people still treat others as though they are merely objects, garbage to throw away."

Exposing Anti-Immigrant Myths
Imagine a delicately crafted mandala of yarn that symbolizes “the Mexican flag colors at the heart of this piece, followed by a black barrier. This section of black yarn represents all of the fences that we must push over in order to lead the people into a brighter future.” The artist's critique deeply reflected their understanding and belief in how so much of American land has been colonized and to show the importance of “The bias that must be strongly overcome is the mistaken ‘first- come-first-serve’ attitude directed at the immigrants who move into the United States. These attitudes are based on a few central ideas; priority, resources, and overall discrimination.”

Shattering Stereotypes
The poem ‘Then decide,’ brings awareness to how to break down stereotypes, exploring “a clear message about Romanian stereotypes. Immediately, you can see the purpose of the poem: Highlighting the misguided perception of Romanians based on stereotypes, without inquiry or knowledge,” The poem then travels to a place of hope, in which the author writes, ““Book a trip, even a virtual one : Cook a recipe: sarmale, polenta, or mici, : Find Brâncuși´s sculptures at MoMa in New York.” Their critique explains that the poem would not be the same without a fix, a call to action. By doing this, the author filled this poem with positivity and something to look forward to.

Fighting New with Old
Ponder a collage of juxtaposing images from World War II propaganda, with more recent propaganda reflecting a polarized political climate. The student writes, “To conclude, the influence of power, and the influence of propaganda destroys communities in every possible example, and we need to do everything we can to stop it from happening.”

Lauren said, "When thinking about what it means to foster students who are globally-minded, reflective, and compassionate, the essence of creativity lies at the root. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman writes, 'For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.' Through the lens of creativity, our students have reflected tremendous bravery in using their voices to actively be the light that our world desperately needs."

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