Millersville University Review - Winter 2013
Magazine for alumni and friends of Millersville University.
Why creativity matters Millersville embraced the theme of “Creativity, Innovation and Engagement” as a way to motivate its students to challenge themselves in the classroom and give teachers the freedom to test their boundaries of creative thinking. Warner’s product design course is a shining example of how process and creativity can join forces to help students test the limits of their imagination without losing sight of the project’s original intent. “My job is to facilitate the creative process,” Warner explained. “[Students] will ask me a question, and I’ll usually return it with another question.” Many Millersville students attended elementary and secondary school under the federal mandate of the “No Child Left Behind Act” passed by Congress in 2001. While well intended, the legislation forces teachers to prepare students for specific educational requirements and offers little room for creativity in the classroom. “More than a few students have never been in a position where they had to think about what they are doing and justify why they are doing it,” Warner added. “This class forces them to think about what they are doing versus being told why.” While Warner provides guidelines for each project, students are encouraged to draw their own conclusion and are creativity | innovation | engagement One group produced wooden speed track and race cars for the toy challenge. accountable for justifying why they chose a particular path. “There are multiple correct answers and multiple ways to get to those answers,” said Warner. “What I ask is that they back it up with research.” Creativity through metaphor Dr. Shawn Gallagher, associate professor of psychology at Millersville, does not believe in creativity just for creativity’s sake. “I don’t think we should be encumbered by the latest fads and chase them without scientific substance,” Gallagher said. “When you get down to the nuts and bolts, what did they learn?” Gallagher does feel that creativity can and should be encouraged in the classroom if, much like Warner’s approach, it is grounded in an educational process. “The last thing we want to do is allow students to surrender their responsibility,” Gallagher added. “The challenge of creativity is for teachers to identify a metaphor that students will appreciate.” Gallagher went on to tell the story of medical students who were asked to treat a cancerous tumor with radiation. “The students were told they would burn a hole through the skin if they tackled it straight on,” he explained. “So how should they get energy into the tumor?” The medical instructor then related the tale of an evil king who lived in a castle. There was a small army that wanted to attack the king, and there were many roads that led to the castle. So the army decided to attack the castle from many directions in order to defeat the king. “Sometimes you need to put it in a framework of something they already know if you want them to discover something new,” Gallagher said. “Creativity is not just about winging it. You need to pursue an atypical path in an informed way.” Outside the comfort zone While there are a few young women in Warner’s product design class, the majority of students pursing degrees in Millersville’s Department of Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology are men. What better way to titillate their creative juices than asking them to design a dress for a 12-year-old girl? “It helps to break down those barriers,” said Warner, who also had students design a Vera Bradley handbag. “It doesn’t matter what they are doing; the same process applied. The dress is secondary; it’s just the vehicle to get them through the thought process.” Students were also challenged to design kids’ meal boxes for Sonic Drive-In as well as rock-climbing shoes. “We went to the rock wall behind Pucillo Gym and learned about the nature of the shoes from a rock-climbing expert,” Warner said. “I want to give them firsthand exposure whenever possible.” Review Winter 2013 11