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Cultivating Creativity for the Bay

Marsh nap-1200
Students quietly enjoy a Marsh Symphony as they listen to the subtle sounds of the salt marsh on Smith Island. Photo by Kathlean Davis.

Pablo Picasso once said, "every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." All of us are inherently creative, but like most skills, creativity requires cultivation, nurturing, and most importantly, practice. Making the time to practice our artistic creativity in adulthood is where many of us begin to fail our inner child. When I was growing up, there were two things that consistently filled me with awe, wonder, and inspiration–art and nature. I had aspirations to be an artist and was constantly outside drawing pictures of birds, frogs, and our family dog.

As an environmental educator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I have retained my love of nature. Now, I'm trying to reconnect with that budding artist and bring back the awe and wonder I remember feeling about the natural world as a child. In next summer's Chesapeake Classrooms Art & Environmental Literacy course, I'll be challenging teachers from Anne Arundel County to do the same.

If you're thinking, "why art?" the reasons are as varied as the fish in the sea. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "many factors are required as prerequisites for quality education. Learning in and through the arts…can enhance at least four of these factors: active learning; a locally-relevant curriculum that captures the interest and enthusiasm of learners; respect for, and engagement with, local communities and cultures; and trained and motivated teachers." The arts draw on the theory of "multiple intelligences;" encourage students to use all the dimensions of learning; and can strengthen student understanding, creativity, and ingenuity.

When considering dead zones in the Bay, climate change, or any other environmental challenges, it's imperative to remember our need to reach people. Quotes like "it takes all of us," "we are all connected," and "we need to act" demand our attention. In order to connect with and catalyze action among the masses however, it often takes different kinds of communication, requiring creativity and imagination. We need to foster these skills in our students, in our teachers, and in ourselves.

Participants in Chesapeake Classrooms' Art & Environmental Literacy course will visit museums and nature centers, engage with local artists and writers, and gather inspiration through hands-on experiences in nature writing, biological drawing, painting, sculpture, and more. These experiences will help teachers learn inquiry-based techniques to empower their students to investigate environmental problems, create awareness, and artistically communicate their ideas. Ultimately, this course will empower teachers to think creatively about how they share their passion for art, nature, and community in a way that continues to inspire their students, their colleagues, and others.

–Emily Thorpe, CBF's Pennsylvania Student Leadership Coordinator  and former Assistant Manager of the Susquehanna Watershed Environmental Education Program.

Stay tuned for more information on all the Chesapeake Classrooms Professional Learning Summer Courses, including the Art & Environmental Literacy course. Registration will open January 19.

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