“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
Children are born with imagination. Like hopping in the Delorean and whisking away to alternate worlds at light speed, kids can jump into a new world in their mind in no time at all. Unfortunately in today’s world that leans so very heavily on standardized test scores, we don’t have time in our day-to-day education to provide time for imaginative exploration anymore. Teachers and parents are talking about this imbalance, but frankly it’s difficult to create time and headspace to foster imagination and creativity when there is a daily struggle to just learn the curriculum, and fast.
Imagination is about more than playing Star Wars or princesses (but let’s face it, those are definitely fun, especially when you get to be the queen, and the kids are all cinderella, and you get to ask them to bring you cookies and whatnot while you lie on your throne). Children are the architects of our future world. In order to create a the brightest new world possible, we need creativity to work hand in hand with knowledge and skill mastery. Your child has the potential to make innovations that we can’t even fathom today, and parents and educators have the opportunity to help them do it.
The key to opening space for imagination is help kids switch their thinking from storing knowledge to creating new knowledge. Education today is often about learning facts and then spitting them back out. We sometimes trick ourselves into thinking that we’re helping kids create when in fact we’re just having them spin the same facts into new forms.
When I was a kid, running through the woods with my brothers, my light saber held high, you wouldn’t even know that I had never seen Star Wars. That’s the point – I didn’t need to see the films to be able to fill in the blanks myself. Bunch of space cadets, check. run around, fight each other with laser swords, check. The rest of the story, the villains, the heroes, the plot line, takes shape on its own.
When creating activities to advance imagination in adolescents, parents and teachers can ask themselves the following questions. If the answer to every question is yes, then parents and educators can be confident that it’s fostering imagination.
Is this activity . . .
- intellectually challenging but doable?
- concrete in it’s expectations?
- ripe with real world applications?
- engaging across subject areas?
- interesting enough to create emotion?
- encouraging of dialogue?
- about creating knowledge?
And while it may seem a daunting task, parents and teachers will be richly rewarded with activities that help children exercise imagination. Kids come up with amazing and exciting ideas when they aren’t bound by bubble sheets.