“Process without creativity doesn’t work. Creativity without process doesn’t work. You need them both.” —  Leon Pryor ’92 Senior Technical Program Manager for Amazon.com

Our guest speaker and Hawken Alum, Leon Pryor ‘92 reminds us that creativity is not a rare gift only granted to the lucky few. Creativity is a process that students can learn, it exists across multiple disciplines, and it requires specific habits of mind.

The question then is How do we bring the creativity conversation down to earth and support all students in developing this essential disposition? 

Enter the Hawken Creative Process Intensive.

This three-week Intensive explores the topic of creativity from a variety of different perspectives. Throughout the experience, students begin to understand that creativity is a process that can be learned — and it extends far beyond the traditional spheres of the visual and performing arts.

Fig. 1 Student Documentation – Hawken Upper School students make their creative process and thinking visible with handmade accordion journals.

Students begin the course with a broad exploration—through hands-on making and design experiences—to consider the possibilities of creativity and to learn more about perspective taking, slow looking, systems thinking, collaboration, ambiguity, and discovery. Throughout the course, students apply time-tested processes and are given opportunities to engage in and refine their own individual creative processes through a variety of real-life situations and team based activities that involve problem solving, brainstorming, product creation, and meaningful reflection (see Fig. 1).

The rich and diverse curriculum helps students investigate, name, and understand their own creative process while dispelling the myths of talent and predestination.

During the three weeks, students zoomed out and looked closely at people, objects, and systems while exploring the following questions: What is creativity? What steps do people take when building ideas? Where do ideas start? Who or what contributes to the creative process?

Fig. 2 Moments from our Creative Process Guest Speaker Session

Over the course of the Intensive, they connected with 18 professionals from diverse backgrounds including David Shimotakahara from GroundWorks DanceTheater (see Fig. 2 top left), La Tonya Autry, Gund Curatorial Fellow MOCA Cleveland (see Fig. 2 top right), Karen Katz Children’s Museum Designer (see Fig. 2 bottom left), and Chef Doug Katz and Gallery Educator Jeremiah Myers at the Cleveland Museum of Art (see Fig. 2 bottom right). Conversations with community partners allowed students to explore multiple viewpoints and reinforced the idea that creativity is about finding and solving puzzles and problems in the world.

As students engaged with guest speakers, multiple course readings, selected videos, and documentaries, a common theme emerged: creative people engage in problem finding and solving. A group of dancers might puzzle over how to communicate an idea about relationships, a design firm tries to understand how to make the workplace environment more effective, a museum designer puzzles over how to provide age-appropriate risk taking for young people while maintaining a safe place for children to engage in play.

This inquiry led students to develop their own creative project — a team based inquiry connected to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

During collaborative project time, students shared responsibility for developing ideas, prototyping solutions, critiquing, responding to, and revising their own and others’ work. Similar to a concept called ‘Brian Trust’ used by Pixar, students took responsibility for critiquing class projects, giving and receiving feedback, and engaging with honesty and candor. Collaboration, taking risks, responding to feedback and sharing ideas were all a part of the process that resulted in the student projects.

Fig. 3 The Creative Process Gallery of Learning 2019- Hawken Upper School students make their creative process and thinking visible with artifacts, sticky notes, videos, and handmade accordion journals.

At the end of the three week course, students built a gallery of learning and shared a celebration of process and products with the Hawken community (see Fig. 3). Visitors interacted with student project groups that included topics such as gender equity in sports, the negative effects on our environment from the fashion industry, a picture book designed to teach young children about climate change, and encouraging open and honest discussions about issues and challenges in the world. All student projects were connected to and reinforced one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Audience members looked closely at multiple artifacts and design projects that were developed over the three week intensive course.

As we learned from Leon Pryor, process and creativity cannot be separated, we agree and we would include one other vital component: joy.

Over the three weeks of the intensive we moved through stages of excitement, frustration, curiosity, and confusion. During our final gallery, we also celebrated the joy that comes from engaging in the process and reflecting on all that we had created.

Can educators bring the creativity conversation down to earth and support all students in developing this essential disposition? Absolutely! And we’re doing just that in the Hawken Creative Process Intensive.

What did students have to say about the Creative Process Intensive?

The Creative Process intensive has completely changed the way I view creativity both in the classroom and in society. I've learned that creativity has no set definition, no correct answer. It's all about experimenting and solving problems with whatever constraints you are given. I've learned to accept failure as part of the process and realized that there is something to be said for changing directions and trying again. When I joined creative process, I had a several preconceived notions about what it meant to be creative. I had no idea what would change during the intensive. I believed that creativity was something that meant the same thing for most people and had specific goals and steps. I believed that the only way to be creative in the workplace was through art and design. As we met with more and more guest speakers (see Fig. 2), I learned that our experiences and the environment shape how and what we create. Whether it was creating menus from food, exhibits for a children’s museum, or album designs for famous musicians, there are many ways to be creative. Now, I know to surround myself with people that inspire me and foster a supportive environment. I've learned to accept things as they come and to put myself out there, even if it means taking risks. I've discovered another side of creativity, one that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

Madi ‘21

At the beginning of the course, I thought that creativity was something that some people have and some people don't. It seemed that whenever I tried to be creative, I had a lot of difficulties coming up with and executing ideas. Throughout the intensive, I learned about the importance of expressing creativity through multiple mediums. In all of our field trips, we learned that there are diverse ways in which to express ideas. We learned about creativity in the business industry, the culinary world, as well as interior decorating. All of these experiences really helped me understand that everyone has creativity, and it is just about how much you practice using it.

Aniyah ‘21

This intensive has completely changed my perspective on creativity. To start, I learned that creativity is complex and it requires collaboration. I appreciate this because I really enjoy working with other people and mixing our ideas together because it helps me gain multiple perspectives and it often gives me inspiration to move into new directions. This intensive has also taught me to be someone who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and put my ideas out there, which is something that I struggled with three weeks ago. It also showed the importance of vulnerability and it showed me that yes you can be vulnerable but if you are in a somewhat comfortable atmosphere, it can actually feel quite safe to open up. I have learned to just start doing things and see where an idea takes me rather than spend hours or days planning every fine detail of the final product. I plan to be much more open to the concept of learning through making in my future creative endeavors.

Keira ‘20

…as I got to work with Daniel, Josh, and Aniyah I found comfort in our conversations and joy in our work time. Soon, I was invested in this project with three other people who I came to know more and more. This sentiment carried onto week 3, when it seemed like as we came closer together, the project almost became second nature. Now, I much prefer our group work compared to the individual projects because I didn't realize how inside my head I was until I was forced out of it. And it was beautiful. The social interactions I had definitely enriched my creative process, the positive energy and affirmative inquiry helped me create these illustrations that almost captured the same energies I was feeling, something that hasn't happened in my art in a while. Looking forward, I've definitely adopted ways to embrace my creativity more instead of stifling it in endless doubts and preoccupations-and instead, just create.

Bridget ‘20

Through our braintrust, I learned how to ask meaningful questions in order to further my own progress and how to critique in a positive and constructive way that helps other people. I now know how to better take that critical feedback and use it in a positive way. Additionally, I now understand that many, many drafts need to be completed before a final product can be made. In this process, you may ultimately never be “done” with your project and your constraints are just time or your deadline. I have become much better at being open to constant change and being okay with an open ending in which I may never have all the answers. I have become someone who is okay with leaning into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable and using that to push me further in my creative process.

Keira ‘20
Jodie Ricci and Jessica Ross

Jodie Ricci and Jessica Ross

Since 2015, Jodie Ricci has led, taught, and developed the Hawken Creative Process Course. She is the PS-12 Performing Arts Chair at Hawken School, a coach in the Project Zero Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom online course, and a classroom practitioner of Agency by Design research. She recently published The SEED Framework For Cultivating Creativity in the Springer Encyclopedia of Educational Innovation, a major reference work focused on creativity and innovation. *** Jessica Ross was a co-instructor and course developer for the Hawken Creative Process Class in 2018 and 2019. She is an educator and researcher who works with Project Zero at The Harvard Graduate School of Education and at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.