Are we murderers of our students’ creativity?

Recently, I came across George Land’s NASA Creativity Test research study.


This was a test devised and used in 1968 for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The test worked so well Land decided to give this same creativity test to 1600 children. He then re-tested the same children at later stages in their lives and the results garnered from his tests were greatly shocking to me.



The following was what Land found using his test:

Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98%

Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30%

Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12%

Test results of 280,000 adults: 2%


The drop in percentage of creative geniuses was significant;  a staggering 68 per cent from the ages of 5 to 10 appear to have lost quite a lot of their ability to be inventive, to use their imagination and be creative.


As an elementary teacher responsible for the age group of 5 to 10 years old, I was particularly struck. I started to question how this decline was possible. In a teacher’s quest to meet curriculum standards, to yield better student grades, have we unknowingly neglected to give our students opportunities to be innovative? Have we instead become murderers of their creativity?


My co-teacher Ms Rosanna Tobin and I decided to sit down with our Grade 4A class during one of our HOPS lessons to find out if we have given our students freedom and opportunities they need in class to be creative.


Our question to them was simple: When do you get to be creative at THS? Here are some of their responses.


Ben: We get to be creative at Social Studies because we get to pretend that we are in Ancient Mesopotamia or Greece or other parts of the world.


Saif: In Literacy, we get to draw (develop) our own characters and scenes.


China: Sometimes in class, we get to be creative when we choose our own work. For example, (to learn more about Alexander the Great), I did a poster and my friend did a video.


Max: In Science, we are creative when we build our own structures with any material that we like and place it on the stream table. Then we turned the water on to see if it would be able to withstand erosion.


Maddie: We get to be creative in Art because at my old school we had to copy what the teachers told us to do but now I can like do different colours and express myself and choose different things.


Samuel: I think (we are creative) during Art because you get to make your own pictures.


Milo: We get to be creative when we draw in our doodle books.


Diego: We get to learn different notes in Music and because we get to make different kinds of notes (composing songs), it is really creative.


Jocelyn: We get to be creative when we get free time with our friends from G4B and we come together to draw pictures or discuss ideas.


The results from our little discussion was simple but enlightening. Our students feel they have constantly been given chances to be creative when they role play, express themselves and have the autonomy to imagine up whatever they like for Art.


After our discussion with the students, I heaved a sigh of relief: our students do feel that they are being encouraged to be creative. They know that they are never expected to conform to any one way of doing something at THS.


As parents and teachers, we often have the urge to dictate and direct what our children produce in terms of school work and when doing so, we need to be mindful that this act of “helping” them will in fact, stifle their creativity.


You can read or hear George Land’s insights into nurturing innovative and creative individuals by going to the following sources:


Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today by George Land; A.T. Kearney analysis

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