The end of any school year is filled with many events such as graduations, awards ceremonies and final presentations, yet some of my annual favorites at this time of year are not at all related to receiving a diploma, trophy or grade. This is the time when creativity takes center stage.
You’ll see creativity everywhere in the W+H classrooms, hallways, stage and athletic fields. Students, artists and athletes, along with their teachers, directors and coaches, are showcasing a virtue that’s among the most important within the field of education.
Creativity is defined as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Many years later, Einstein has been proven correct. In a digital age during which knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips, the elements of creativity and imagination stand out as more important.
I’ve seen countless examples of creativity on display recently at W+H. Earlier this week, I watched a group of eager fifth graders build a coin drop for the school’s India COVID relief fundraiser. They worked together under the guidance of STEM teacher Erin Maciorowski but conducted their own collaborative problem solving skills to build the structure.
In the Middle School, creativity is infused in many activities and one of my traditional favorites in the sixth-grade cell project. Students are asked to prepare a model plant cell but to use items for the organelles that resemble the function of that cell part, rather than focus on its appearance. This year’s students continued that tradition with another round of stellar presentations in classes taught by Andrea Barnett.
One of this year’s most interesting Upper School projects was offered to AP Human Geography students in Jean Castellano’s classes. The students literally “cooked up history” in a three-week partnership with City Labs in which they explored culinary history, shared their family recipes and created their own cookbook. I can’t think of too many better examples of creativity than cooking.
I started my scroll of creativity examples with academic projects from all three divisions for a reason. Creativity is most typically associated with the fine and performing arts, as exhibited by the definition listed earlier. However, at W+H, creativity is not confined to artistic works.
Our singers, musicians and visual arts students have been working hard in a year that has been particularly challenging for performing artists and their teachers. Despite the many restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the shows have gone on for our choir and band ensembles. Last week’s combined Middle and Upper School Virtual Spring Concert was a real treat. The creativity of the sound and video professionals who edited more than 500 individual recordings to put together a one-hour concert was amazing. Kudos to choral director Sharon Byrne and band director Rick Fontaine for their work in delivering the next-best thing to a live show. Their creativity and vision yielded a wonderful final product.
The exclamation point and culmination on our recent splash of creativity will come next Thursday night, June 3, when W+H unveils its first-ever All-School Art Show. This virtual showcase of fine art will include work from all students in PreK-Grade 12. I’m really looking forward to what the students of our fine arts teachers, including Middle School veteran and Department Chair Tanda Tucker and newcomers Sara McDermott (Lower School) and Andrew Sullivan (Upper School), have in store for us.
Our students have even found a way to combine fine art and athletics in their creativity. Claire Lu ’24, one of the stars of our state championship girls’ golf team, won the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) Great Junior Golf Design Challenge in April. Claire and her talented teammates have also shown lots of creativity on the course, leading to many impressive scores and championship trophies.
While trophies and accolades are wonderful to receive, creativity is a vital part of any successful process. Wardlaw+Hartridge students and teachers are displaying creativity every day.