When does creativity become a chore?

When does creativity become a chore?

It’s an appropriate question to ask if you poke your head into the EDTC 3123 Applications of Educational Technology class this week and observe students who are pre-service teachers reacting to the premise of project-based learning. After describing this week’s activity of collaborating with a group to design a catapult with materials such as rubber bands and popsicle sticks, the peer teaching team asks whether anyone has questions before they move further in the lesson. One student raises her hand and asks, “Can I leave?”

After various forms of grumbling, the students coalesce into groups and begin the activity intended to give them hands on experience with the project-based learning method. Ambling about the room and observing the goings on, a first grader who had accompanied her mother to college that day huffs enviously at these grown ups getting to do something so fun as making catapults that would launch marshmallows across the room. Finally, she approaches the instructor and asks whether she may please make a catapult too? The instructor quickly agrees, happy to see at least one person enthusiastic about the project. After being shown the box of provided materials, the first grader eagerly digs in and collects various paraphernalia which she assembles through trial and error into the beginning of a catapult. When she runs into a hiccup – her spoon won’t snap forward – she scoots over to the nearest table of college students and deposits her catapult into grown up hands while asking for assistance. Within minutes, she has a working catapult.

Meanwhile, a nearby group of college students are still listlessly researching catapult designs on Google accompanied by occasionally mumblings of, “What are we supposed to do?”

I would imagine that at some point in their childhoods, each of those students in that class would have been just as eager as that little first grade girl to play and experiment and create. But when did that creative courage and initiative go away? When did it become work? A chore to be completed out of obligation to an assignment? And where did it go? Will there come a time sooner or later when even that little first grade catapult engineer will leave her instinct for curiosity and play behind as well?
I really hope not. Not the least because that little girl is my daughter.

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