Students Explore Creativity at SPA

A group of high school students wander around the art gallery, tracing the edges of glossy, vibrant pots and rough canvases bursting with color. In a corner of the library, a girl finalizes her lab report with details that paint a vivid picture of the experiment she performed in class. Voices discussing the many shades of meaning that lie within a novel, speech, or controversial idea drift out of both English and history classrooms.

Where can creativity be found at school?

Creativity, an ability measured not by grades or tests, but by the power of an individual’s imagination, is present in many unlikely aspects of everyday life. Unfortunately, its potential is not always realized. Although there are outlets to be creative, many students feel that this invaluable skill should be encouraged even more within school boundaries.
“[Creativity is encouraged] sometimes…within school assignments,” senior Kaia Findlay said. “People are scared to go beyond the boundaries of the project because they think the teacher won’t accept it…when creativity is found, it’s amazing,” she said.
The humanities and the Fine Arts Department seem to be the main sources of in-school creativity for most students. “English offers a lot of opportunities to be creative…history does too and our fine arts program is excellent,” Findlay said.
Findlay also sees a lack of passion or interest in actual subjects or assignments as a reason for the overall lack of creativity in students. “You have to be personally inspired to be creative, [and] there isn’t a ton of outside pressure to do so,” she said.

Is it possible to assign creavitity?

Freshman Henry Ziemer a, saying “[It’s difficult to be passionate about schoolwork because] it’s not always the same rush… as writing a story because you want to write a story as opposed to writing a story for the pastiche project.”
Ziemer agrees with Findlay in that creativity is found primarily in the humanities, theater, and the fine arts, but he also sees it “slightly in science.” However, Ziemer is more optimistic about the presence of creativity at school, saying “there’s an atmosphere around here that fosters individuality.”
Senior Emily Ross relates with Ziemer. “Students do their best to be creative with the outline they’re given,” she said. Within school, she’s seen creativity in the “Multi-Genre Project, Gender in Literature class, German class, and Music Seminar…but one can see [creativity] best in what students do outside of class,” she said. “They’re doing all this stuff: writing stories, making art, and it’s not in class.”

How might students take initiative and just be more creative?

Despite students’ passions not aligning with school work, Findlay thinks teachers would respond well to creativity if students chose to express it more.
“It’s assessed pretty well; teachers are pretty open to it,” she said.
Fine Arts Department Chair Marty Nash can back up this belief: “This natural tendency, to create, is ideologically and practically applied throughout the school,” she said. “I do feel that we offer the opportunity to meet the broadest expectations while also encouraging students to look beyond any preconceived notions of limitations.”
Sophomore Justin Zanaska has noticed this sentiment, although he still thinks that “some teachers are too specific with their assignments, which doesn’t give enough room for people to be creative…in some classes, like math, where there’s only one right answer, it’s harder to express creativity.”
Another central factor in creativity can be student friend groups. “Depending on the friend group you’re in, it might be difficult for you to express creativity, because you’re limited by the opinions of the people in that group,” Zanaska said.
However, Zanaska asserts that “as long as you can find something that interests you, you can find a way to let your creativity flow.”

Do students actually value creativity in each other?

Part of the problem is the amount of value students place on creativit. Findlay said that “a lot of SPA students aren’t as creative because they don’t have the time or they procrastinate…a lot of SPA students know how to look at certain things from only one direction, they have trouble viewing it from multiple points of view which is where creativity comes from.”
More academically inclined students would especially have a problem with this, as they focus on quick results and spending extra time on being creative isn’t productive in that frame of mind.

How can students balance creativity and deadlines?

Ziemer experienced this tension firsthand in his academic classes. “If you feel like you’ve got too much homework, or if there’s a new test coming up …it all starts becoming study, study, study; work, work, work,” he said.
“I started writing my novel over the summer, but I do have to make adjustments for the school day…if I can find any time whatsoever I’m going to go to the computer and start working on it.”

Regardless of whether students and faculty need to be more creative, it’s an undeniable fact that creativity doesn’t always come easily–it actually requires a lot of extra work and effort.
“It’s so subjective and based on only one person’s opinion, sometimes, with the academic side of things it can be too much risk-taking,” Ross said.
In turn, this aspect of creativity can make it hard for teachers to assess it. “Anyone who has been to a museum or theater performance is acutely aware of the conundrum of ‘having personal likes and dislikes’ while trying to determine the merits of any particular work…being creative is not simply producing something which one has never experienced; it involves great care and understanding,” Nash said.

Are you ready to think outside the box?

Overall, students still appreciate and enjoy being creative for themselves, regardless of whether credit is given. “It is really all about ‘I want to do this. I’m going to do this because I like it’,” Ziemer said.