Take chances, make mistakes, get messy! ~ Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus

  • Student-wrecked journals
    Student-wrecked journals
  • Hole-y wrecked journal, Batman!
    Hole-y wrecked journal, Batman!
  •  Turn this page black (using items found in the world).
    Turn this page black (using items found in the world).
  • Turn this page black (using items found in the world).
    Turn this page black (using items found in the world).
  • Blank page
    Blank page
  • Draw something based on the moon.
    Draw something based on the moon.
  • Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
    Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
  • Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
    Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
  • Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
    Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
  • Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
    Find a piece of string. Tie this page up with it.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Choose your own wrecking method.
    Choose your own wrecking method.
  • Use this space while dreaming outside.
    Use this space while dreaming outside.
  • Cover this page in lines that you find.
    Cover this page in lines that you find.
  • Blank page
    Blank page
  • Cover this page using only items found in the outdoors.
    Cover this page using only items found in the outdoors.
  • Cover this page using only items found in the outdoors.
    Cover this page using only items found in the outdoors.
  • Fill the entire page with words you see on your adventures.
    Fill the entire page with words you see on your adventures.
  • Blank page
    Blank page
  • Cover this page in circles that you find.
    Cover this page in circles that you find.
  • Write down all the street names in your immediate vicinity.
    Write down all the street names in your immediate vicinity.
  • Find a piece of cardboard in the next five minutes. Tape it here.
    Find a piece of cardboard in the next five minutes. Tape it here.
  • Blank page
    Blank page

 

An important part of creativity is giving ourselves permission to be messy and imperfect. By the time we are adults, however, we’ve often been trained in the art of avoiding messiness and mistakes. School in particular rewards playing it safe rather than taking chances.

Another aspect of creativity is the habit of recording our ideas and experiences. One of the ways that I try to encourage a more playful approach to notekeeping for engineering, business, and nursing students is to assign as a creative thinking “textbook” Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal Everywhere. Smith’s various editions of Wreck This Journal—part creative journal, part sketchbook, part writing prompts—have sold over 3 million copies. Read more about her in the TIME magazine profile, “Meet the Woman Trying To Save Your Kids from Their Screens,” and on her website.

In the past, I have asked students to keep their own creative journals as a way to practice the art of paying attention, but many of them seemed stuck or intimidated when faced with so many blank pages. Smith’s journals are small (Wreck This Journal Everywhere is small enough to fit in a coat pocket), fun, and full of delightfully unexpected prompts designed to trigger connections with the world around us.

While not every student warms equally to their journal, most appreciate the chance to get class credit for doodling, sketching, daydreaming on paper—activities they have often been told are a waste of time. They get full credit for the journal, which is part of their class participation grade, as long as they use most or all of the pages (they don’t have to follow the prompts, but most do) and clearly get into the spirit of the assignment. Many tell me afterward that they have recommended the journal to their friends and family and that they plan to continue the journal habit themselves.

The photos at the top of this post are a few examples.