When Lucy Hamre was in a Creative Learning class in the second grade, she said she doesn’t remember being taught through traditional means, but remembers learning a lot.
“It was more beneficial than worksheets or textbooks because we were the ones creating what we were learning about,” Hamre said.
The Creative Learning Initiative uses Creative Teaching, a research-based, instructional approach drawn from the arts that puts students at the center. Creative Teaching is not what but how teachers teach curriculum, empowering and engaging students across all subjects throughout a student’s educational journey.
The initiative focuses its work around three pillars: sequential visual and performing arts, community arts partnerships, and Creative Teaching across the curriculum.
Students might write a song about a science subject, create a sculpture to represent a theme in a story, or re-enact a historical event.
Sloan McLain is the MINDPOP Education Director and Austin ISD Creative Learning Initiative Design and Implementation manager. She was also Lucy's second grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary.
She says that the Creative Learning Initiative was put in place so that all students have access to the arts.
"It's about equity,” McLain said. “It exists to ensure that every student has equitable access to creative teaching in the classroom, and it uses the process of the arts and creative learning to help kids learn."
Since 2013, the Creative Learning Initiative has reached thousands of children who have been able to learn in unique ways that don't require a textbook. The program initially began through outreach from community members in Austin to implement more equitable access to the arts in public schools.
Lucy Hamre is now a senior at McCallum High School and often thinks back to her time in McLain’s second grade class.
“In our class we would make a song about the water cycle or step into roles as a mayor or a judge to learn about how city government worked,” Hamre said. “We were able to make things on our own, and it was set up so that we understood what we were learning on a deeper level."
Hamre has been able to use strategies she learned in her second grade class as she has gotten older, making learning fun and engaging.
"It takes the strictness out of learning,” she said. “It’s fun; looking back, none of it ever felt forced. I didn't have to sit down and listen to teachers talk all day."
McLain said it's no surprise that Lucy is continuing to benefit from creative learning.
“Lucy was a critical thinker who followed her curiosities and asked clever questions,” McLain said. “She used her voice, kindness, and courage to make her learning her own and believed in herself, and the creative process and she continues to do that to this day.”
Austin ISD is a lead partner in the Creative Learning Initiative, a nationally recognized, community-wide partnership among the district, MINDPOP, the city of Austin, and more than 100 community arts partners.
“The kids are the creators,” McLain said. “The kids are interpreting each other's work, and It's really the teachers using this structure to help the kids find their own meaning. It's really about how we can help kids think more deeply about what they are learning and see themselves in their learning so they have a voice and feel like the learning is for them.”
Creative learning is currently being implemented in the Akins, Bowie, Navarro, Anderson, Crockett, Eastside, LBJ, McCallum, and Travis vertical teams.
Historically, a new vertical team is selected to participate each year. During the next few years, the district aims to offer the program at all of its schools.
For more information on the Creative Learning Initiative please visit www.austinisd.org, or the Austin ISD Department of Research and Evaluation website to learn more about the benefits of creative learning across Austin ISD.