Harnessing and understanding creativity

Richard Hay, Creative Arts teacher at Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick, describes how LEGO helped students visualise the creative process

The arrival of the LEGO Foundation Creative Process toolkit was an exciting moment for our school. The Creative Process Toolkit comprises different colour LEGO bricks, which represent a key concept of creativity which is written on each brick. Some additional bricks have a smiley or sad face emoji, and some are left blank for users to add their own words. Each of the key concepts is unpicked inside the Creative Process Toolkit guide in user friendly language, alongside some ideas for activities. The words include wonder, imagine, dare, build, listen, test, take apart, reflect, and share, which come from the LEGO Foundation’s research into creativity.

An A Level student’s visual representation of their creative process across their Photography studies.

In the Creative Arts department we were about to enter a dramatic period of development where we’d been asked develop our Create programme for year 7 bringing Art, Music, Textiles and Drama together to look at broad overarching themes such as Popular Culture, Fusion and Heritage. Creativity was central to teaching each theme and we used the Creative Habits of Mind as a framework. What I didn’t expect was how the Creative Process Toolkit would unlock creative practice within both my classroom practice and my student’s creative thinking.

Using the toolkit

We introduced the toolkit to our year 7s through a simple activity called “I’ve lost my dog”.

A student’s exploration of how to find Fraser.

I claimed my boxer dog Fraser had been lost in the park, and the children had to help me figure out how I was going to get him back! This activity was developed as an accessible introduction to the Creative Process Toolkit where students could apply creative thinking to problem solving, wrapped in a playful narrative. No guidance was given on how to use the bricks, except they should think about the language on the side of the bricks and do what they think was best. Some created journeys, model parks, or wrote with the bricks, but the key to the activity was their collaboration and their sharing of their process.

In the example above, one pair of students approach was to create the word look from the bricks, which is also a path looking for Fraser, The word look invites us to take apart where he might be, wonder where to start, then dare to try and find him by sharing our struggle. The bricks which build the figure (bottom left) takes us through the process of how they would try to find Fraser; reflecting on where he has been, imagine where he might go to, listen to try to hear him, and wonder where to try next. Taking apart this process aided understanding of the creative thinking behind how we problem solve. The playful nature of the exploration and reflection on their problem solving gave students confidence in articulating a solution and their route to it.

Developing a common language for creativity

Following on from this we used the Creative Process Toolkit widely in different scenarios and across a broad spectrum of subjects. We planned a creative story for characters the children had invented. Our English department explored the character of Frankenstein’s monster, and our A Level Photographers were able to use it to visualise their understanding of creativity in their specialist area. In each application, the core principles were comparable; creative thinking was given an explicit vocabulary and a 3D space for its exploration. This was combined with collaboration and high-quality dialogue, leading to not only a structured creative thinking exercise but a meta-cognitive awareness of what creativity really is.

Making an impact on our understanding of the creative process

"The LEGO Creative Process Toolkit helped students to open their minds and express complex ideas without even realising it."

- Rosie Bush, Culture and Community Co-ordinator, Duchess's Community High School

The Creative Process Toolkit allowed pupils to explore and gain deeper understanding of how creativity works. This ownership of creativity gives agency, confidence and independence, which enabled pupils to feel able to make a more personal response through their artwork. We noticed that when students understand creative thinking processes, they can picture their next steps and become even more creative in the process.

As an experienced Art teacher, specialising in Art and Photography, I came away with a greater and deeper clarity of creativity and creative thinking. It is rare to be given subject specific continuous professional learning (CPL), and whilst we all implicitly understand the creative mechanisms in our classroom, I found the toolkit to be a highly valuable way of visualising the creative process which made it easier to visualise the creative process woven into lessons and how I might improve upon this.

The Creative Process Toolkit has helped us to shift our thinking on what creativity looks like and how we develop creativity in the classroom. Combined with our department’s work on the habits of mind, we’re framing lessons with exactly what facets of creativity we are exploring in every activity. It is shaping how we plan lessons and schemes of learning to ensure all aspects of creativity are explicitly incorporated in students learning. It is a tool that can be transferred outside of traditional creative practices and will help those outside of the arts understand and experience the value and impact of creative thinking.

Various models made by students articulating how they see Creative Process; note the importance to them of emotion; a mix of stable emotional pillars, and alternating risk, challenge and daring which takes emotional strength.

Richard Hay teaches Creative Arts at Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick, a large rural High School in North Northumberland with around 1500 students and a catchment area the size of Greater London.

Following its pilot scheme, the Creative Process Toolkit is undergoing further development. You can find out more about the Toolkit in this creative video. If you’re interested in keeping up to date with the latest developments, sign up to LEGO Foundation’s form.

    • Type
    • Case studies

    • Interest
    • Pedagogy

    • Creative Connections