I was talking to Pruthvi, director of Montessori- a chain of schools in Bangalore. I was perplexed when he said children are not creative until they are six years old. As a person who works with happy cow which researches and comes up with theatre based methodologies to teach children, this left me pondering. I came back and did a bit of research on what it really meant. Here are some of the points that I could read and immediately connect to my experiences with children in various schools. All these were things I was experiencing every day, but thought they were constraints in teaching children.
The clarity on the following things helped me to get more into the orientation of designing a program for them, with them from their point of view.
Children work from memory:
As a kid, they are in the phase of learning everything around them. They touch, taste, feel and explore things just to know what they are. They get excited with even normal things they see around like rattling sound of a paper or a ball bouncing. Their grey matter is open to explore and store things in the memory. Therefore if a child says that he will land the rocket on an elephant’s back he is picking two random things from his memory and putting them together. It is not creativity. For him, rocket and elephant can be the ones he sees in cartoon or a rocket from TV and elephant from text book or just two random words which he learnt that morning.
Art’s role in Child’s creativity
Art is creativity. If children are not creative, then what am I teaching them? What does theatre do to them?
Early childhood learners are mastering gross motor skills, but fine motor coordination (including skills like writing) are still a bit beyond their grasp. Children of this age level are whole-body learners who need to learn through active exploration, involving lots of physical activity.
Therefore theatre at this level typically involves high energy movement focusing on gross motor skills including balance and coordination. Students can begin to invent their own movements at a much later stage.
The research in all disciplines indicates that early childhood learners have very short attention spans and need routines involving a variety of activities to sustain their interest. A structured classroom environment that also allows for open-ended, exploratory work is the key here. Therefore, repetition of basic concepts, but still allow freedom for students to invent their own movements is very important. Instructions in class may allow for guided as well as unguided “improvisational” work, for children at this age.
In the earliest stages of this age range, parents and teachers are often the most important individuals in a child’s life. Learners at this stage are very social and talkative. Students are often very much interested in “re-telling” pictorial and physical aspects to peers and adults. Images become more representational in their point of view.
Students are beginning to explore the relationship between themselves and the world around them, and may begin working in small groups or participating in full-class activities in theatre or dance instruction, fostering their cooperative skills and communication abilities.
It is widely accepted that arts experiences encourage development in multiple areas, and arts-based explorations are often seamlessly integrated into educational experiences for preschool and elementary learners. In early childhood, arts experiences present students with a primary means of communicating their understandings of themselves and their world. Creativity and innovation come in much later in their lives. Theatre based methodologies help children get things imprinted in an experiential pattern that last longer and easily support innovation at the later stages of their life.