At explorers this week, four children decorated pumpkins using glue and a collection of materials. After talking about how to make a plan before starting a project, each child began by describing his or her thinking. They decided they were going to make:
- A fire truck pumpkin
- A bird pumpkin
- A super hero pumpkin
- An undecided pumpkin
This planning was followed by over half an hour of focused activity, bringing these planned/unplanned creations to life. The one who was uncertain of what to make experimented with yarn and sequins. Children were inspired by each other’s ideas, and the fire truck sprouted feathers while the super hero got yarn tied around its stem and evolved into a Native American. There was a sense of spacious time – no rush or schedule, and each one, child and teacher alike, was fully present to the task at hand.
When reflecting on this wonderful time of creativity I was reminded of Daniel Pink’s description of “Flow” in his book Drive.”* Flow happens when you become completely engrossed in the challenge and joy of what you are doing. It is “…enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation.” Pink quotes Teresa Amabile of Harvard: “The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences or business.”
This is an important function of preschool: to encourage this sense of flow, this delight in learning and mastery of a new skill, while using your own ideas and working with others. Engaging in flow forms a strong foundation for children to become life-long, intrinsically motivated learners. And all of this “stemmed” from four pumpkins, a collection of materials, and the minds and hearts of children.
*Pink, Daniel, Drive, New York, Penguin, 2009.