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Creative Environments…

candles - tea lights

Entering the room – I tried to create an environment that was different from any thing people were use to. Lights were shut off. Candles were scattered. Tables were covered with kraft paper from Montana’s Restaurant. Crayons were distributed for doodling. Music like U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” played.

I did this not because it was cool, or even for ambiance, but to help break people out of routines. Leading educators tell us that when people enter what is known as a ‘classroom’, after years of being a part of stale educational institutions our brains simply disengage as we sit down for more of the same old.

On a side note, in university during the rare moments I attended class, I fought desperately to stay awake. Quite honestly I had just about a hundred percent hit ratio of not making it to the end of the lecture conscious.

I would sit up at the front of the class hoping I would stay attentive fueled by the guilt of falling asleep directly in front of the professor. It didn’t work.

I would try to engage myself by furiously writing notes, just to keep my hands moving, only to wake up finding sentences that turned to gibberish as my pen slid down the page.

What I finally discover did work, was snacking on chips and high-sugared drinks, and even that failed to work at times. I recall loading up a hot dog with the works before class, and waking up discovering a trail of toppings running down my jacket with the hot dog in my lap!

How else might we create environments where people are creatively engaged?

Here’s an interesting link I just found on developing brain-compatible classrooms.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • obahsomah March 28, 2007, 11:52 pm

    When I was in school I was from a very early age not allowed to sit by the windows. Each year, my teachers were told, either by my mom, or previous teachers, that I couldn’t get my work done if I was by the windows. Silly people…I could still look across the room.

    I never had a problem falling asleep in class…in fact in all of my grade school and high school years…and even the college courses I took…I never once fell asleep in class. But I was great about disengaging! I was a day dreamer…still am. I can get caught up in Deanaland (my mom named it that) and totally forget everything around me.

    The only thing that really kept me in the classroom instead of off in Deanaland was interaction. If the teacher wanted input, or it was class discussion, I was there. I still don’t care for lectures(this includes those from behind a pulpit!). If someone starts droning on I go off into daydreams. 😉

  • Joeie Kung March 29, 2007, 2:53 pm

    Hi Lon:

    My name’s Joeie and Alan (hopefully you know which Alan) redirected me to your page a few days ago for interest-sake… and interesting indeed! Just wanted to comment here, so you don’t think it’s creepy that I’m linking to your blog (if that’s okay with you) and also reading your blog now!

    Anyways, about your post – drawing from personal experience:
    – TA-ing in a high school classroom for the past year
    – having been in an awesome Sunday school class the past few months
    … I guess what stimulates me in a classroom is relevance and like obasomah mentioned, discussions and interaction is what gets people hooked.

    Relevance – when the teacher pulls in a larger scope; whether it be global, whether it be national, whether it just be an interesting article that pokes a different angle at the topic.

    Discussions / Interactions – in a classroom, you obviously get a whole mix of people with different understandings on the topic. I’ve personally always felt that a good discussion happens when each person has had time to think through what they understand about the topic and can share that with others.

    A lot of times, I find that Person A is a geologist and I am simply a rock fan (haha, pardon the pun), and in a discussion, I feel awkward bringing up anything b/c Person A is that much more familiar with the topic matter and can think quicker on the spot.

    So one thing I think would be useful (this hasn’t been tested yet haha, so experiment at your own risk) is at the beginning of each class, to get each person to make a mind map or write down thoughts of what they know about the topic.

    Even if they don’t end up sharing it, it gets people focused in on the topic and is a good segway for the teacher to use to jump into the topic.


    – joeie

  • Joeie Kung March 29, 2007, 3:13 pm

    Wow. I posted a lot. Sorry! 😐

  • Joeie Kung March 29, 2007, 4:44 pm

    Haha. Back again. Sorry, I’ve officially become a stalker… BUT in other news, I saw that Return of the Prodigal’s Son was a favourite; have you read any other Henri Nouwen books?

  • Lon March 29, 2007, 5:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing Deana, it’s amazing how long it’s taken for us to figure out how to really engage people after all the centuries of human history…

    Joeie, thanks for tuning in! I’m not sure which Alan, actually, there are many out there! Thanks also for linking me, and don’t ever feel like a stalker, especially when you’re commenting and creating conversation here, that’s fantastic!

    thanks for sharing your thoughts. In terms of relevance however, you would think people are in an environment or classroom for a particular reason… so instantly all of us should be engaged since we’re there for some particular purpose, unless we were coerced of course. And that’s just it, so often many of us enter in wanting to know something, but something in our brain simply disengages because of the immediate environment we step into…

    Discussions, absolutely. And you’re right on with allowing people to think through things first sometimes. it’s amazing how different conversations can be when people have a moment to privately write first. i guess the problem with that is you end up getting some filtering and editing, which can sometimes actually block creativity, but it definitely can be very helpful sometimes!

    Now i’ve written a lot, but none of us should ever feel that way when we’re discussing such critical, and ‘relevant’ things!

  • Lon March 29, 2007, 5:40 pm

    oh and about henri nouwen, i don’t recall not liking anything that he’s written. Beloved and Gennesse Diary come to mind as both being excellent.

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