Exploring Creativity with Gary Delanoeye

“It has become very clear that public education may be stifling the natural creativity of children!” -Gary Delanoeye

I was at the park yesterday, talking with another mom as she pushed the stroller containing her fourth and youngest child back and forth as he slept. “I have this crazy idea,” she said, “to go to the mountains in India in the spring and learn a special kind of pottery they teach only there.”

Crazy idea? Or an expression of sanity? Of course, I was like, “Go for it. That’s not crazy.” But I can understand why she might feel that it is. She holds master’s degrees in forensic law and some other kind of law. She practiced yoga at the national level in India. She has four young kids—and most mothers of young children spend a percentage of their time feeling like they are, to some degree, mentally unsound. Now she’s going to fly around the world just to learn some obscure pottery technique?

Serendipitously, I had just received an email from Gary Delanoeye, EdD, Affiliate Faculty in the Masters in Education program at Antioch University Los Angeles, about one of his most popular courses, Exploring Creativity.

“Gary thinks it’s a great idea!” I said. Okay, so I didn’t really say that exactly… but I did reference his comments on the course as our conversation went on.

“Having been both a psychology and education student, I have had some exposure to creativity as an academic discipline,” wrote Delanoeye. “But more important, perhaps, are my own creative activities. These have included painting, carpentry, and writing. I have focused mostly on writing and have two books of fiction, Checking in at the Crowbar Hotel and Letters from the Outs, as well as a new book of short stories in the works. Part of Exploring Creativity is to understand one’s own creative process. Thus, I have reflected on my writing extensively in order to understand both my craft and myself.”

“Many of the adult Exploring Creativity students say things like, I’m not the creative type or, I don’t think of myself as creative or, I don’t paint or sing or anything,” Delanoeye continued. “From remarks like these, from adults, we wonder how they ever came to doubt their innate ability to create. We want our credential candidates and graduate students to be agents of creativity, facilitating creative responses to problems in their organizations and especially in classrooms.”

“When I was young we went to the hills for the summer,” said my friend. “ At six and seven-years-old, I would sit and watch the women make this pottery until they yelled atme to go away… you know, the caste system. I wasn’t supposed to be with them. I still think about it. I’ve been researching.”

If her research and planning results in the execution of her “crazy idea,” can you imagine how enriching an experience it would be for her family? Not only would her children see their mother pursuing a creative interest that has been on her mind for years, they would be traveling to a place that was important to her as a child… not to mention the benefits for her.

“When do you leave?” I asked.

She laughed. “They teach classes from April through June because of the weather,” she said. “The kids would love it there.”

Exploring Creativity was designed and developed on student input. It started out as an educational “Issues” class. “Issues” classes explore timely concepts and ideas pertinent to teacher credentialing and graduate work in education. The task of the first class was to construct a syllabus. Four students enrolled in this course read and reported on journals and books dealing with creativity. The class played with Legos, puzzles, and problems to be able to discuss their own creative processes. Many other universities have developed such courses, most of them in psychology departments. “In our teacher credential programs at Antioch, we value creativity and want to make sure that our teacher candidates know how to cultivate expressive and creative children,” wrote Delanoeye.

What do students love about Exploring Creativity? I think you’ve probably figured that out by now… but here are a few more inspiring tidbits:

  • There is no assigned textbook because a creativity class of students all reading the same thing seems rather oxymoronic!
  • The open-ended creative project assignment. This enables students to be creative in any way they choose— which many noted they never would have done without it being assigned.
  • A growing list of resources [accessed through the process of the class] allows students to explore an ever-expanding world of creative expression.

“The one type of comment heard the most from Exploring Creativity students is the sense of validation they get from having creativity redefined for them; definitions that enable them to feel like creative people again,” wrote Delanoeye.

It’s nice to be reminded that we can all make things, that it’s important to create. Who’s itching to start a project? To get back to a source of inspiration that’s been lost in the shuffle. Go for it.

Malia Gaffney holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She lives in LA.
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