Throughout the majority of schools in South America, fostering creativity in students is either not present in, or not a priority of the curriculum. If you walk into a normal classroom, you will see students doing a lot of copying off of the blackboard. When these same students are asked to write a story about a cat named Jinx, they stare at you blankly, because they have not been trained to work the right side of their brains. We have been working in local schools in Peru for the last 6 years, sending volunteers into the classrooms to support the local teachers.
In order to get out of the cycle of abject poverty in these towns, the team in Peru believes that the children need to be trained to think independently. As Walter Lippman once said, “When all think alike, then no one is thinking!” With this in mind, the staff and volunteers at GVI Phoenix Peru took it upon themselves to start introducing the concepts of creativity and imagination to the classroom. This has been a multi-pronged venture. First, they redesigned the gym and art curriculum for all six grades of primary school. In this new curriculum, the children now have weeks of theatre lessons, weeks of dance lessons, and more challenging art projects. Next, the team in Peru took it upon themselves to change the environment that the children are working in to make it more conducive to new ideas and sparks of imagination. In March, the volunteers finished painting the entire Inicial (elementary) classroom with fanciful birds, unicorns, lizards, and other mythical creatures, and the kids can’t get enough. The team also started reading time with the children, and will read one page of a story book, and then have the children create the ending for the story. It’s a fantastic exercise for them to learn how to think independently.
The local teachers in Arequipa are overwhelmed with high numbers of students and extremely low resources. Being able to support them in this way has been an incredible experience for. The teachers themselves have now started incorporating some of these imaginative techniques into their daily teaching, which is fantastic news, because it means this program is gaining a level of sustainability, which is the ultimate goal.