Walking in Wonder: Nurturing an Artful and Architectural Way in the World

by: Ginger Carlson, Elementary School Assistant Principal, ACS Athens

Ethos Magazine, Winter 2013, Vol 8, Issue 1

At the heart of our school vision lies the making of our own meaning in this world. This is a magnificent and honored journey, one that calls upon our deepest senses of patience and mindfulness. It is an art in itself. As we approach the journey in a way that honors both the art in our lives as well as the way our children can profoundly and uniquely express themselves through it, we make the profound shift from simply doing, to living in an artful and architectural way.
Nurturing Creativity 
To nurture an architect of one’s own learning and way in the world is to nurture the creative mind.  In order to be able to nurture this mindset and way of being in the world, it helps to understand the way creativity works. What we know about creativity is this: creativity, the listening that produces the act of creating and engagement with knowledge in any form, is an individual journey that feeds the soul and its drive in the world.  To create is to be at one with our higher self and express our uniqueness.  It is the act that keeps us feeling fulfilled as people and gives our living purpose. To nurture this way of being in the world is to nurture a deep interaction with our changing world, appreciate it for what it is, and be able to recognize how we can innovate upon it.

Asking Beautiful Questions
At the heart of truly exploring the world and connecting with it in a truly creative way that nurtures building meaning, are the wonderings that build upon a child’s natural inclinations and inquisitiveness about how the world works.  Through our intentional and thoughtful use of questions we can help children tap into their creativity by allowing them to have a truly inquiry-based learning and creating experience, driven by their own interests, observations and predictions.  By altering the way we approach ideas for what a child will create, the materials they use, how they will choose to approach their projects, what unique idea they can bring to it, and if they will even end up with a final product, they are then given freedom and license to experiment, stretch themselves, and grow in their own unique ways.

Making Artful Observations
Observation and critique are truly significant ways for children to explore ways of being, learning and examples of creativity around them.  Learning to really look at the world and all that is in it, be it sculpture, a piece of literature, a math problem, or a recent finding in the sciences goes beyond the simple learning experience that is often associated with childhood.  To really learn to look is to bring the world closer to the human experience, to connect with it on a deeper level.  In turn, children bring a vocabulary for observing and critiquing the world around them to the very real learning they themselves create.  From this place, they develop a deeper understanding of the potential and power of their own architectural experience, the building of their own learning.

Mimicking Nature
When we look at the science of biomimicry, it is no surprise that the research shows that children who are given the opportunity to learn, play, and create in natural environments, do so more creatively. From the study of birds to enable human flight to the mimicking of a butterfly’s reflective wings to enhance display technology, we are not only surrounded by examples of natural creativity and art, but also very real solutions based on those natural phenomena.  All our forms and functions, all our inventions and innovations are connected to something much wider than our conscious minds can even fathom.  If nature is our model, measure, and mentor, then there is nothing we are not connected to and no problem we cannot solve.
Being an artful and architectural parent and educator, impacting children who have the opportunity to build their own learning and experience, is as easy (and as hard) as it sounds.  It is picking up a paintbrush more often.  It is allowing yourself and your child to sing in the rain.  And it is laughing and exploring the natural world together on a regular basis.  But it is also more than that.  It is a way of looking at the world in all its wonder.  It is making the conscious decision to ask questions, to not always know the answers, and to find delight in the puzzling.  Perhaps most importantly, it is the simple act of changing the way we look at the world and doing our best to see it through the lenses of our children’s unique experiences. It is through this that we begin to walk in wonder on our artful and architectural journey.