By Debbie Ayala

In 1968 Dr. George Land developed a test for NASA to find the most innovative and creative engineers and scientists. It worked and the test was so successful that Dr Land began to wonder how someone would acquire these skills (creativity and innovation).  Are children born with these or are they taught to them? He adapted the test for young children and tested 1600 children (representing the population of the U.S.) beginning at age 5. 

These researchers were stunned to find that 98% of the 5 year old children tested at a genius level for innovation and creativity. After finding this amazing result, they decided to continue the test. By age 10, the numbers had dropped to 30% and by age 15 to only 12%.  By adulthood, only 2% of those same 1600 kindergarteners tested at a a genius level for creativity and innovation. 2%. 

Clearly something happens to us as we age that kills our creativity and innovation. 

I imagine that if we wanted to increase the number of 10/15 year olds who are still highly creative, we could create an environment that would foster their ideas. An ideal environment would encourage freedom and independence, the adults in the environment would be available to help, but not interfere. This type of learning facility would allow children to try their ideas without fear of failure and instead, see failure as part of the learning process. 

Coincidentally, also in 1968, the first Sudbury School was founded.  Sudbury Schools strive to provide this very environment. Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders, wrote about the foundational ideas of the school.  

“The fundamental premises of the school are simple: that all people are curious by nature: that the most efficient, long lasting, and profound learning takes place when started and pursued by the learner; that all people are creative if they are allowed to develop their unique talents;”

I agree with Dan Greenberg. All people are creative. We are born this way and somewhere along the path to adulthood, some of us lose it. As the world is pushing for children to spend more time in schools, to acquire more knowledge, let’s push back and make more places where children are free. Free to create, free to play, free to imagine. 

As Albert Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world.”

Published February 8, 2021


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