[Reflection 3] Pick a Quote


“It’s common to hear adults talk favorably about activities that are “so much fun that kids don’t even know they’re learning.” But that shouldn’t be the goal…Immersion without reflection can be satisfying, but not fulfilling.”

I really liked this quote and found it interesting because I’m not even sure if I reflect on things after being immersed in them! It does remind me of a recent visit to Dynamicland ( with my friend. I had previously gone twice alone, but this time, we got a meal after and discussed the experience for 1.5 hours. It was amazing how much more I enjoyed the experience itself because of this opportunity to reflect and share how we felt together, rather than just walking home and thinking about it on my own.


The idea behind “wide walls” resonated with me. “We want all children to work on projects based on their own personal interests and passions.” I sometimes reflect on what is the difference between an interest and a passion in children.

When I observe my 7-year-old daughter playing, I will ask her what she is doing. The activities she spends the most time on may be a strong interest or passion. The difference between the two heightens when my daughter shares a project with people. The widest and most enthusiastic of these shares may be her passion.

In my experience, having a sustained passion works hand in hand with sharing. I like to encourage children to share their interests. Their passion will rise and build as they connect with people they care about.


It’s funny you bring up Paint Nites, we were just chatting about that in my group at the in-person LCL class here at MIT…some students were talking about Paint Nites as being a good example of some positive aspects of creative learning (like having a project, trying out a new medium, and spending time with peers - and having fun); others were talking, like you, about the heavily constrained aspects of the activity; and then there’s the possibility that Paint Nites might be an encouraging entry point to painting, for those who are totally unfamiliar and want to have a positive first experience (because your painting ends up looking like a real “thing,” from the start); or perhaps the painting really isn’t the point in Paint Nite, and it’s really about having a shared social experience, and moving together step-by-step allows for that sense of solidarity. So in the end, the activity seems to be a productively thought-provoking :smile:

Do you think that a free-making - or a not-quite-so-constrained art/craft activity night, say with an open prompt - would attract similar interest? How might that experience differ for participants? How might the facilitation needs be different? I am wondering if the psychological barrier to entry is lower with “Paint Nite,” perhaps, but would be curious to hear your thoughts!


It reminds me of the idea of “Creative Confidence” from David Kelley. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the book) I think many adults have the issue of feeling like if they didn’t get to a high level of obvious skill with something (ex. painting), they no longer consider that something they “can do”. I’ve heard the anecdote from teachers & researchers where they say if you ask a kindergarten class if they consider themselves artists, everyone’s hand goes up. Middle school, some hands. Adults, nearly zero hands (probably the people who are literally full-time artists and a couple of confident creators). I think it’s really important to create spaces where people realize they have the power to create themselves, and DON’T need hand-holding to make things.

We forget that we did crafts nonstop in elementary school, so who is to say we can’t keep doing them for fun now? Making and creating are not about increasing your skill (if someone took a painting class because they literally wanted to improve their technique, that would be different than playing around and exploring) and I think the grown-up environment is lacking more opportunities for open-ended play.

I agree that Paint Nites are a fun social experience, and a good way to be guided through an activity so that with minimal prior skill, you can end up with something nice-looking.

On the other hand, I think this paint-by-number kind of experience perpetuates the idea that if what you create doesn’t look like what you think art “should look like”, it’s a waste of your time to try.

I’m not sure something open-ended WOULD attract the same interest because people would be intimidated. My friends have been inviting me to MakerSpaces and I’ve resisted because I’m afraid I’ll walk in and look around and not know what to do (I know nearly nothing about hardware). It’s a silly fear; is that really so bad? Walking into a space and needed help getting started?

When I tell people that I dance, I get two responses that I dislike (some people respond positively, too, but these are illustrative):

  1. Yeah I love dancing, too. I went to the club last weekend
  2. Oh I’m so bad at dancing, that’s cool

1 is more about people not understanding or respecting dance as an art form, but 2 is the one that bothers me in this context of creative learning.

Obviously, people practice for years to get better at the techniques of different art forms. No doubt that real skill and technique are important. But somehow, because of a work-centric adult life (where we make a living off of specializing in a valuable skill set), people have forgotten how to enjoy something without being highly skilled at it. When I tell people I “love to dance”, I don’t mean “I am great at dance, I do it all the time, and it’s fun to be good at it”, I mean “I literally enjoy the act of dancing”. These go hand-in-hand (as we get better at something, we enjoy it more: but they don’t HAVE to ONLY go hand-in-hand.

That was a pretty long-winded response but clearly I am full of opinions about this, hahahaha!


It is not a quote… is just that I remember from the book Finding your Element: zone is a moment in time where express ourselfs without restrictions, energy flow like a river. My zone is patient and calm! is where I can think deeply and my element can go and go.


A quote that I really like from this reading is, “At one point, a teacher from a local school came to visit the Clubhouse, and she was shocked to see one of her students working on a 3-D animation
project. She said that he was always goofing off in the classroom. She’d never seen him
working so hard.”

I think that although this quote is simple and although we, as educators, know that students work best when they’re engaged with something they’re passionate about, it is easy to forget when we are frustrated with a disengaged student. This quote is meaningful to me because it reminds me of the importance of engaging each student, allowing them to have voice and choice, and is a reminder to differentiate instruction.


“It turned out that these were the same children who had enthusiastically participated in the LEGO/Logo
activities. Now, they were getting into trouble with security.” I have found it to be true that young people that feel disappointed or betrayed will lash out as a different way of following their passion. Those may be the same kids that have a lot of personal energy for whatever direction their passion leads them.

Teachers tend to categorize students in lots of ways, and good worker / bad worker is one I catch myself doing. Good workers will finish the work no matter what it is (boring or not!). Bad workers are easily distracted by anything more compelling for them: gossip, anger at peers, hunger, social interactions. It raises the bar for making work interesting. However, the bad workers can be the most brilliant because of that passion and energy.

I taught a summer class in field ornithology for scientifically promising inner-city Detroit youth through Upward Bound, a branch of Outward Bound. Teachers had to pitch their classes to students during an assembly, and there was one boy who was talking and running around, pushing the envelope of acceptable group behavior. One older teacher said, “That one is going to be bad. I hope I don’t get him in my class.” At the time, that made me angry, and I did my best to attract that boy into my class, by making my pitch louder and more full of movement than I was planning.

Sure enough, he showed up in my class with all his energy. Hiking outside was fine, being quiet to look for birds was harder, and completing any kind of paper work didn’t happen. However, when there was a challenge of making up a skit to present at assembly, that boy got excited and took over. He wrote the script, directed how costumes should be made by the others, and his over-the-top performance style encouraged the shy “good workers” to also let go and do a great performance that all of us were proud of. Without him, it would have been dry and boring.

It’s not just the student who is brought up by harnessing passion, but the entire group which then has access to that passion. Students who NEED to be passionate to function can be the MOST passionate.


From Origins and Guiding Principles of the Computer Clubhouse

"At first, some youth interests might seem to be trivial or shallow, but youth can build up large networks of knowledge related to their interests. Pursuing any topic in depth can lead to connections to other subjects and disciplines."

This quote helped me to not worry about making sure students are creating the next ingenious work. Genius comes through inspiration. And inspiration is if anything, connecting disparate works that have no relation until they begin to coalesce magically.

This speaks to the evolution of a creative thinker so well!Piecing together abstract ideas is the fun of creative thinking!!

Reminds me also of Godel Escher and Bach; how each was working on the same subject: Paradox, in their own respective disciplines: Math, Visual Art, and Music.


Wide Wall - Because all children have different passion, we need technology to support different kinds of projects.

When I expressed my interests I forgot the time and devoted myself to it.

I understood how important support is to bring out children’s own interests.