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My Takeaways from Speaking at TEDxSausalito 2016

By: Stephan Turnipseed, Executive Vice President, Destination Imagination, Inc.

For at least a generation of children, several words once used to describe positive learning experiences have since been reduced to a series of “four-letter words” shunned from today’s classrooms: “make,” “fail” and “play.” This is shocking to me, as these words were at the heart of the creativity that cemented the trajectory of my future. Today, we stand at the epicenter of a creativity crisis and I strongly believe we got here after removing some of our most formidable weapons in education – make, fail and play. Together, these words are the key to unlocking the creative potential of all learners, preparing them to solve the grand challenges that lie in our future and to thrive in the 21st century workforce.

This is what I had the honor of speaking about at the TEDx event in Sausalito last month. It was such a privilege to share the stage with some incredibly inspiring people from all over the nation around the theme, “Why Creativity?” To name a few:

  • Ali Partovi, the co-founder of Code.org, iLike, and LinkExchange talked about how we need to stop thinking of coding as just for coders and instead to begin thinking of computer science as a foundational subject – like math – as it provides a basic understanding of how the world works.
  • Beth Hennessey, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, shared six things that can kill creativity in her talk on “Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation and Creativity in the Classroom,” including (not in the same order): 1) Competition 2) Evaluation 3) Surveillance 4) Promise of a Reward 5) Restriction of Choice and 6) Restriction of Time. What happens when you combine all these together? Today’s current school environment.
  • Randy Swearer, vice president of Autodesk Education Experiences, discussed how creativity is a literacy and a part of liberal arts that should be exercised from “K through gray.” He also pointed out how our education system has been designed around separate subjects. This worked well when we reimagined education in the Industrial Age, but our world is fundamentally different now and he suggests many subjects should be taught together, like “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

Since I was participating as a speaker, I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch every talk, but so glad to have been a part of it. The TEDxSausalito event provided the opportunity to explore so many unique ideas and important issues, trends, and challenges surrounding creativity in education, business, technology and our lives.

Did you catch my talk at the event or on the live webcast online? I’d love to hear from you, if so.

Speaking of exploring unique ideas, my next stop was the Google Science Fair. This was my second year judging and once again, I was absolutely stunned by the projects and young people who created them! As a judge, I had the honor of getting a front seat to witness these incredible creations, including a wound management device, a fertilizer made from natural leaves, a carbon filter made to significantly decrease Styrofoam waste, stabilization fins that increase rocket efficiency, and more. The grand prize winner this year was 16-year-old Kiara Nirghin of South Africa, who created a way to turn fruit into soil-ready water storage that can be a solution for long-term water needs. Check out all the finalists and their projects online here. The job of selecting first among equals was daunting, demanding and ultimately rewarding as we celebrated all the entrants for their creativity, courage and curiosity.  For me, they are another example of what young minds can do when they are allowed to make, fail and play in the context of learning. Congratulations to each entrant and especially to the winners. I’m already looking forward to next year’s!

Click here to watch a recap of the TEDxSausalito talks. (Stephan Turnipseed’s talk on “Why Creativity” is the last talk in the series.)