Award-winning children’s book author and artist Peter Reynolds has a message for educators: It’s time to be brave.
But don’t jump too quickly, he says; chances are his definition of bravery is different from the one you might be familiar with. “Being brave,” explains Reynolds, “means inspiring people to be who they are.”
As the founder and chief executive officer of Fablevision, a Boston-based creative arts and animation studio, Reynolds has dedicated his life to using story-telling and art as a vehicle for empowering children to think creatively–both about themselves and the world in which they live.
Speaking to a group of educators at the Texas Computer Education Association Conference here in Austin Feb. 8, Reynolds, whose company specializes in technology-based solutions for unlocking students’ creative potential, says that the ability to create and to appreciate art is not reserved solely for the aspiring painter or sculptor, but something that exists, at some level, in each and every one of us.
Thanks to the evolution of technology and simple design programs from the likes of Adobe and other software manufacturers, Reynolds says, it’s easier than ever for teachers to work art and creativity into the classroom.
“My favorite piece of software is the kind that comes with a blank screen, because a blank screen needs something–and where is that something going to come from?” asked Reynolds. “It’s going to come from you.”
Whether it’s teaching simple lessons on animation, directing students through an interactive art project, or writing, drawing and producing their own books on computers, Reynolds says, teachers have an array of opportunities to incorporate art and story-telling into core subjects such as English, history, science, and even mathematics.
“When you think about it, operations are really plot devices,” said Reynolds, whose first animated short was designed around a math concept.
Apart from writing and drawing his own line of children’s books, Reynolds also works through Fablevision to help build creative software applications for inspiring students to read and write.
His company recently joined with educational software provider Knowledge Adventure to create a program called Books by You. The interactive learning tool, moderated by award-winning actor John Lithgow, guides students through the process of designing and authoring their own storybooks. The books then can be published online at Lulu.com, a self-publishing firm for aspiring writers.
“Technology represents an ongoing way for kids to express themselves–to tell us who they really are,” said Reynolds.
Whatever the topic–whether it’s math or literature, art or science–Reynolds says the key to thinking creatively is in students’–and teachers’–ability to look at life from another perspective.
But students aren’t likely to make that connection on their own, he said; in order to inspire students, Reynolds said, teachers must lead by example.
“How can we ask kids to write and draw and create things if they don’t see us doing it,” he asked. “We all have to dive in and join the party.” His advice to educators: “Dare kids to make their mark.”