Enabling Creativity: Using Garden Exploration as a Vehicle for Creative Expression and Analysis

Enabling Creativity: Using Garden Exploration as a Vehicle for Creative Expression and Analysis

Becky Boesch (Portland State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5478-3.ch006


This chapter uses current developments in cognitive neuroscience to explore the notion that educational activities should involve the whole person. To that end, the author explains in depth an undergraduate college assignment that allows for learning through the coupling of creativity (divergent) and analysis (convergent) thinking in an integrative learning task. First, students explore the concept of metaphor which provides both mental association and ambiguity. With this underpinning, students experience three very different types of gardens and try to uncover the metaphors of nature lying within their design. Students record a journal and take images of the gardens and later create a photographic montage of each garden which reflects the metaphor that the students saw emerging in the garden itself. Accompanying the visual image is a written reflection which discusses the metaphor they experienced sensually in the garden and how it is represented in their images.
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Cognitive Neuroscience And Creativity

What is creativity? The most accepted definition of creativity was proposed by Sternberg & Lubart in 1999 and is composed of two components. Creativity is “the ability to produce work that is both novel (i.e. original, unexpected) and appropriate (i.e. useful, adaptive concerning task constraints)” (p.677). While this definition is well accepted, its understanding and application to CN is still in its infancy. “There are few neuroscience studies of creativity or of the creative process. This is most likely due to the difficulties of defining creativity and the lack of psychometric means of assessing it….Nonetheless, there may well be a neural basis for creativity” (Haier & Jung, 2008, p. 172). Even though much more research needs to be done, initial understandings have emerged. Whereas creativity was initially thought to reside primarily in the right hemisphere, that idea has been debunked and now it is clear that creativity is much more complex in its processing and involves the whole brain (Sawyer, 2011, Dietrich, 2007). Many regions of the brain, in both hemispheres are active during creative tasks. In fact, to take it a step further, Immordino-Yang (2011) and Immordino-Yang & Damasio (2007) stress that “affective neuroscience is revealing that the mind is influenced by an interdependency of the body and brain; both the body and brain are involved, therefore, in learning” (p. 99). So, not only is the whole brain involved in creative acts but the body as well. These new realizations have import for education. If educators are committed to maximizing learning, then learning activities should be designed that allow for whole brain and body learning in order to encourage and develop creativity.

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