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In defense of chaos, Or why we need to make a mess

by Lindsay Palmer, Teaching Artist, Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary School, Del Valle ISD

So here’s the thing about creativity…it’s messy! Oh how many times have I had the experience of a visitor walking in my class room mid-art production and seen the not so subtle look of horror on their faces at catching the chaotic mess that is 15 first graders’ whose puppets are still in progress. Or drums, or costumes, or movie sets, or paintings. Yes, I know this room looks a mess but I promise there is genius underneath all of those pipe cleaners. You see it takes a mess to make greatness in my classroom. Creativity requires a certain freedom. This is the kind of freedom that kids are rarely allowed during their regular school day. I believe learning should always be a hands-on, nitty-gritty process, and in art it is essential. Once that first messy art project is underway, it sets the tone for who I am as a teacher and what this class will be like. I am the teacher that allows a little crazy. I know this is scary because one kind of crazy can lead to another, and I have experienced that. And yes, my classroom gets a little loud too. Finding balance between keeping some order, and maintaining authority in the room, while simultaneously easing up on their normal school day rules in order to foster creativity, is a tricky line to walk.

But it is important to try, because allowing them this freedom is a gift you give to them and they will recognize it. This is one thing that I wish non-art teachers understood about why kids enjoy their art classes so much. It is not just because they like pretty colors, or because it is “easy”, but because of the freedom. Freedom to create, express, and to actively engage. To stand up out of their chairs and make things that activates both their bodies and minds. They have an opportunity to have a visceral experience in what can be an extremely methodical and ordered day. Learning sometimes means getting your hands dirty. And then we get to practice getting them clean again. Don’t worry; we always get them clean eventually.

So here is my thanks to all of the school administrators, afterschool program coordinators, and teachers who have been brave enough to trust my kids to come in and take over for three hours every day, especially if glitter was ever involved. And to all of those teachers whose classrooms that lack the proper visual excitement; I have a whole class of personal decorators on stand-by.

About creativeactionaustin

We are based in Austin, Texas and reach more than 16,000 young people every year through our unique blend of theatre and education programs.Our programs expose young people to critical social problems and offer opportunities for them to creatively think about how they can be a part of solutions to these problems. Creative Action is a unique blend of art and education – for us, the two are intertwined. We believe that using the arts as a teaching method provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way to learn – it incorporates the whole mind and body.

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