Moving Beyond Craft Programs: Encouraging Creative Confidence in Adult Learners
According to a landmark longitudinal study by George Land, creativity peaks in early childhood, and drops drastically as we grow older. Ninety-eight percent of children between the ages of 4 and 5 score at the genius level on creativity assessments, yet by the age of 15, only 12% of those children still scored at this level. When the same assessment was given to adults, that number dropped to just 2%. These statistics support a trend that many library professionals have witnessed -- today’s adults tend to have a much harder time than children with tinkering, playing, and using their imagination. This trend is concerning because, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, creativity will be the third most important employable skill by 2020. As emerging technology transforms the landscape of work, the success of individuals and of society as a whole will depend on creative thinking. Yet when it comes to maker projects, many adults are afraid of trying new things. They’re afraid of failing, and they have simply forgotten how to experiment and play without a set outcome in mind. Consequently, adults often come to library maker programs expecting to be given step-by-step instructions, to be told exactly what to make and how to make it. Many libraries offer such programs in which participants follow a set pattern, use pre-prepped materials, and everyone makes the same thing. While there’s certainly merit for these types of crafting programs, their lack of experimentation, exploration, and personalization reduce the opportunity for participants to learn translatable skills. In place of these “make & take” craft programs, librarians can encourage adult learners to experiment, explore, and embrace uncertainty through making and tinkering. This change cannot be done overnight, however. If craft programs have been long offered at your library, your regular attendees may be taken aback by drastic changes to programming. Without doing away with craft programs that your patrons enjoy and love, changes can be made incrementally that begin challenging adult learners in new ways. This chapter provides guidance on moving beyond craft programs to engage adult learners with higher level creative thinking. It discusses the difference between crafting, making, and tinkering, and how it applies to adult library programs. Finally, it provides specific program implementations to incorporate making and tinkering into preexisting craft programs, and to ease adult learners into the world of making. By doing so, we can help adults flex their creative muscles, let go of inhibitions, and make amazing things.
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