By Scott Noppe-Brandon, Executive Director, Lincoln Center Institute
This is the age of imagination, creativity, and innovation.
The world we inhabit today is defined largely by globalization, rapid advances in technology, and unprecedented access to information. These factors mean that knowledge alone is no longer enough to guarantee success in the classroom or the workforce. Rather, how we utilize widely available knowledge is more important now than ever before.
That’s where imagination comes in.
Imagination is the amazing human ability to visualize new possibilities, to look at what is and ask “what if?” Creativity allows us to act on the ideas we imagine. Together, they enable innovation, which brings new things into the world and produces solutions to pressing problems. These skills are crucial to prosperity in the 21st century.
The good news: contrary to conventional wisdom, imagination, creativity, and innovation can be taught in schools.
Over the past 37 years, Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), the New York City-based organization I lead, has developed an educational method to nurture young people’s imaginative potential. We call it imaginative learning.
Imaginative learning is applicable across academic subject areas. It may involve works of art, but it’s not a way of “teaching art.” Simply put, imaginative learning, as practiced by LCI, uses the inquiry-based study of artworks to foster essential cognitive skills in students.
But does imaginative learning yield concrete results? The answer is yes, and to measure them, LCI has created the Capacities for Imaginative Learning, clear-cut outcomes of learning that align with the national Common Core State Standards. Young people who acquire the Capacities can apply them throughout the school day, and beyond it.
I firmly believe that education doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation—either we give students imaginative thinking skills, or we teach to the standardized test. By aligning LCI’s imaginative learning with national standards, we at LCI hope to illustrate that the two can coexist, and can even support each other.
We should not allow schools to turn into standards factories; they need to become environments where imagination, creativity, and innovation can flourish. This was the clearest message sent by the leaders in business, government, science, and the arts who attended America’s Imagination Summit, the major event LCI hosted this past July in New York City. These people will soon be hiring today’s students.
I am thrilled that, through Curriki, LCI now has the opportunity to share imaginative learning with teachers around the globe. Visit our Curriki group to download our Imagination Lesson Plans. Two sets of Lesson Plans, designed for elementary, middle, and high school levels, are online right now. More will become available soon; join our group to receive updates when they do.
It has always been the responsibility of educators to prepare young people for the times in which they live and are expected to assume their role as citizens. By teaching imagination, creativity, and innovation, we fulfill that responsibility in the 21st century. The skills that students develop through imaginative learning serve them in all tested areas of study—and, most significantly, for the rest of their lives.