How to infect curriculum-based schooling with Creative Learning


I’ve been thinking about posting this topic for a couple of days now, so here it is:

Say you’re a teacher in a traditionally constrained post: for example, a K12 math teacher who has the legal (& cultural) pressure that his/her students MUST KNOW… don’t know, greatest common divisor or addition of fractions by the end of the term.

Can you get Creative Learning into that context?! And, if that’s the case, how can you do so?!

Math here is just an example, of course. There’s a major difference betweeen being a facilitator in an afterschool setting and a teacher in a traditional, curriculum-based, standard-based position from whom educational authorities, school administrators, and maybe even fellow teachers, parents… expect very specific things. To be in that position and to believe that a more organic (so chaotic!), passion-driven approach should be taken is kind of painful (I know a couple of people in that situation…).

So how can we handle this? What strategies can be used to satisfy both needs at the same time, or to get some compromise between the two? Have you had any experiences in this sense? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cómo diseñar para muros anchos en contextos muy estructurados

And therein lies the rub… great question. I do aim for this and feel a definite difference when I’m doing extra-curricular and my in class teaching. My way into doing what I want is to know my curriculum documentsvery well and to work from there in my planning. How can we meet these outcomes in the context of our learning activities? To say I am doing one type,of learning does not preclude others either…
last year I was teaching art and science to the same students and I felt a lot freer in mixing things up. Now I only teach my littles art and my bigs science I do feel more constrained.
My dad is a master teacher and would do integrated science, a cohort of 20 for all 4 (or 5?) subjects for the whole semester. He fought hard for this, and had worked his way theough the bureaucratic side of things, and because he knew the people in the Ministry of Ed (Yukon is a big geography with a small human population) they trusted him. His students were scoring very highly on the final exams because they did not just cover the materials theoretically, but through applied experiences, reflection and study. His class culture was one of hard work, joy and curiosity.


Thanks for sharing @MissMissShelly! You dad’s story is inspiring, and certainly the possibility of having a wider space as teacher (in terms of being responsible of several subjects) lets you less constrained.

For a couple of years I also had several subjects (more or less 3) with several students for several years in a row. In a way it was more relaxed as it came more naturally to mix things up, as you say. I don’t enjoy that position any more :frowning: and I’m still struggling to find ways around these narrow walls


I’m sorry to hear it is no longer enjoyable. I had an unpleasant burnout a couple of years ago and am working to re-build myself. A new school with students I enjoy (for the most part) and colleagues I respect and care for has helped a lot. And new subject matter. I used to teach PE and the noise was getting to me. Loud spaces really set me off and have damaged my hearing more than I care to acknowledge.
I struggle with admin at times and am working at keeping my head down and getting on with my stuff. I really love it when I have a principal who ‘ gets what I am about.’ That makes a world of difference! That said, in our board, principals come and go… generally every 2-5 years so it is a question of enjoying the ones with whom I work well and laying low when that is not the case.
My biggest problem is a noisy brain. Stupid chatter about things that really do not matter, but enough to wake me (multiple times) and spike anxiety, not to a level that is debilitating but more unpleasant then the lack of sleep messes me up. I did an on-line meditation course for half the year last year and that really helped, but I let the habit slide. Biking to work a couple of times a week really helps. I love active transport. I need play, and really miss that from teaching PE… (please do not think all I did was ‘play around’ although the lifelong kindergarten group is one that understands the value of play… )
Our union has a series of courses (free to us) from a clinical behavioral psycohologist to help develop perseverance so that is my next course of action. It does not help when my dad wonders why I am not as resilient as him. That said, I’m going to go and find me some tools to help me become so.


Francisco, this is such a valuable topic, I wonder if it would be a good one for a hangout, or an unhangout? A call for best practices in infusing creative curriculum in situations that resist it?
I think too, starting small is helpful. My dad’s example is the culmination of a career in education, after starting in city planning… I think of your poem, of how singing and jingles can create earworms that assist memory for content. I find my students do not have great auditory memory so I am looking for ‘sticky language’ so they remember and repetition that is fun and enjoyable. For example with my pre-K, I use ‘a little dab’ll do ya’ when it comes to the ‘ooey, gooey, icky sticky glue’ because I don’t have endless budget for glue sticks, but I have a 2 gallon jug of white gluethat goes into small lidded cups.


Sorry to hear about your struggles… :frowning: My experience is always mixed up in a sense. In a way, as I said, I enjoyed a relatively good position some years ago, in my first teaching post: it was after-school but still curriculum-based (music students around 14-18 years old, following the quite rigid oficial music curriculum), and I had several cohorts of very few students for several years & subjects, and even better, I was the only teacher doing these subjects in that place. I had more freedom than average, yet it felt so constraining in many senses… Partly for that reason, I quit and went abroad on a gap year.

Now I’m back at the same workplace, but on a different position: I teach piano to mostly younger kids, mostly curriculum-based as well. Similar problems there, and that long-term, multiple-subjects space is not likely to happen again soon, but my head is in a better state now and I see the situation differently. I’m more positive about finding ways to widen the walls. Don’t have much of a clue how, but certainly it will start small (as a low floor itself, in a way…) :slight_smile:


That would be great, definitely. I’m not being able to Unhangout on Mondays because of job conflicting hours, and I feel I’m missing something great! :confused:



I am not a teacher. But it may not be direct in craft exercises, etc.
It could be modeling creative logic by explaining your thought process, creatively.

I imagine that project management and daily academic practice is valued is every school? To achieve learning outcomes. This could be the right area to bring Creative Learning.

I also believe this will bring inspiration teaching. Not only to you. Youth inspired as well. For example, here is journaling in a project management dashboard I created:


Hi @frjurado,

First, amazing conversation here. I am learning so much reading what you and @MissMissShelly are discussing.

I hear your difficulty. I teach mathematics and computer science and it can be so hard to break free of traditional methods, especially in math and especially calculus-stream math. When I taught statistics there was so much we could explore and still meet the content expectations. But right now I am teaching pre-calculus and there is just so much computational fluency that is needed that it feel so constraining. (Use the factor theorem to determine factors of polynomial functions…)

I am reading a book right now: Project Based Teaching by Suzie Boss and John Larmer. It is discussing how to incorporate project based learning into a expectation-rich world. It’s not everything - in particular - it often has wide walls in terms of product and not in terms of content - but it’s something. I’m going to try to structure a unit of math using this strategy this semester.



me too. Maybe we could coordinate an unhangout or a hangout during a different time period.

I’ve been mulling over this topic too and found this brief article a little bit helpful in terms of mental framework.
Another resource shared with me was the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball

My oh-so-helpful brain keeps thinking Giant Hairy Eyeball… much akin to “Stink Eye,” that non-verbal cease-and-desist gaze developed by school teachers not yet driven to the level of frustration of raising one’s voice. Grin.

I enjoyed reading it, doodles, insights and all, but I need to go back because it is not part of my ‘web of knowing’ and I do want to maintain a pleasant relationship with my administration.


Nice to hear your thoughts and challenges too. Are there creative means your students can use to develop fluency? I think immediately of strategies we use to get things to stick: acronyms, visualization, mind maps, songs, and how emotion and scent helps anchor memories…

I love the youtube series, Dance your PhD. Here’s one example:


That is a really great suggestion! I’m going to have to do some pondering to find a way this can fit into my multi-subject elementary focus. I need short and sweet because my students can stretch a 2 minute written reflection into a 15 minute moaning session.

Creative applications of meta-cognition. What strategies and practices are people using in this area? Please share!


A couple books I’ve enjoyed that explore Pablo’s original question (how to introduce / expand space for creative learning within constraints of formal schooling environments).

They might provide some inspiration to you!

In the US context:

  • Monica Martinez and Charles McGrath. Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Schools are Transforming Public Education (New York: New Press, 2014)
  • Berger, Ron. 2003. An Ethic of Excellence. Portsmouth: Heinemann - by a teacher / craftsman on his 25 years teaching in rural Massachussetts. Really appreciate how you describes his approach to both design and to supporting his students.
  • Ted Dintersmith’s What School Could be captures his findings from visiting schools in all 50 states across the US - his analysis is shallow, but that isn’t the goal of his work - it does a great job of showing the abundance of creative learning within schools across the US - this is by no means the norm, but teachers across the US are innovating and making space for creative learning within formal constraints

Finnish schools are also pretty interesting: I really appreciated Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons and Flipped Learning Learning in Finland by Pekka Peura and a few others. Finland’s system is quite interesting in that it is highly decentralized, “professional” (in that teacher’s are well paid and treated with respect + receive training + autonomy).


Thank you! they sound inspiring. I also need to get to my own bookshelves… I am a junkie for collecting, but not always reading… Shopcraft as soul craft, The Third Teacher… all waiting…


Vejo através da temática abordada que onde vivo no Brasil, não é uma realidade diferente de todos acima, parece que estamos no mesmo patamar. todos com ganas de mudar a educação, torná-la mais atrativa, fugir do tradicional, inovar etc…
Também já passei por problemas de depressão ( ao qual além da medicação li muito livros de autoajuda e livros espirituais de médicos que trabalham com terapia transpessoal) isso ajudou muiiiiiiiiito e em 1 ano estava ótima. Creio que o suporte psicológico é fundamental para todos nós, muitas vezes a ansiedade de resolver e ajudar na problemática do ser humano, nos proporciona desestrutura física e emocional. Cuidar da mente e do corpo, para depois cuidar dos que estão em nossas mãos.
Gosto muito de romper as barreiras, quebrar pardigmas e sempre tenho em mente o plano “B” que é nada mais nada menos que em alguns conteúdos trabalhar de maneira diferenciada, e a cada ano faço uma expansão destes.
um exemplo: ministrando a disciplina de química no 3 ano do ensino médio, tinha fórmulas, nomenclatura e assim por diante, inovei com um trabalho onde em 4 semestres os alunos apresentariam uma parte e depois no último semestre teriam um trabalho elaborado por escrito dentro da metodologia científica. E na parte experimental eles iriam apresentar o trabalho para mim e depois para todos os alunos da escola e dos períodos M, e T. Dividi os temas, grupos e as turmas que iriam apresentar, assim não ficou cansativo e foi uma experiencia muito válida pois a temática era drogas. Trouxemos pessoas para fazerem depoimentos, uma aluna pode compreender o motivo de sua mae permanecer internada em clinica de recuperação e não ter criado ela, outra pode falar sobre o alcoolismo de seu pai e assim por diante. Foi tão produtivo este trabalho, que no ano seguinte a professora de sociologia se uniu a mim e fizemos o dia da consciência na escola, ai o trabalho passou a ser interdisciplinar.

[Reflexión 3] Diseñando con Muros Anchos