EPISODE 03: THE STORY OF

Creative Equity

with Jed Dearybury

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The reason that artists are known as creatives is because they take the plain, the ordinary, the simple, and they make it into something else.

Jamie Hipp

Real talk. It certainly seems that responsibilities related to teaching grow every year. There’s always a new curriculum to learn new whole school initiatives, extra duties, not enough funding and, of course, countless meetings. I’m Jamie Hipp, and this is Teaching Trailblazers a show about teachers, artists and leaders in arts integration and STEAM. On this episode, we’ll be talking time, space and opportunity for creativity, despite all of the other responsibilities related to teaching with Mr Jed Dearybury, a 13 year early childhood educator and top five finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year who now leads professional development across the country. I had the pleasure of attending a PD session led by Mr Dearybury in 2019 and his passion and enthusiasm for creativity at all levels really resonated with me. So Mr Dearybury, very early childhood spaces are filled with creative and divergent thinking opportunities. But most high school campuses I visit look vastly different. So, in your opinion, is creativity just an early childhood thing?

Jed Dearybury

You know, honestly, creativity is not an early childhood thing. It’s a human thing. Um, if you go backwards in time to the cave people, um, it was creative that they ever left the cave and picked berries and picked leaves. Cracked an egg to see what you could do with it – if you could eat it or if you could plant it or ah to kill a woolly mammoth and learn how to eat it. Uh, that was creative thinking. And that was it. The foundation of who we are as humans. And to think that creativity is limited to early childhood or even, ah, lot of times people think creativity is limited to artists. Um, it’s just not the correct thinking about the word creativity. The definition is to literally take an old traditional idea and transcend into something new. Um, so instead of a paper towel holder but a paper towel roll being a paper towel holder, it could be a telescope, or it could be a mast of a ship that you used to create out of cardboard. It has other purposes, and you have to, um, something I say often is destroyed. The box of your traditional thinking to come up with new and creative ideas. And it’s something for every one of us, not just some.

Jamie Hipp

So we’re not even thinking outside of the box – we’re completely destroying the box. I love it.

Jed Dearybury

Yeah, one of my probably one of my number one professional development sessions that I’ve done is titled, Destroy the Box. And I came up with that title because I heard lots of people say, Let’s think outside the box Let’s think outside the box And I found that to be a very temporary fix to a solution. Um, if you wanna teach a difficult topic, you think outside of the box for that one topic. But then when you go back to your other ideas, you get back in your safe zone. You’re comfortable spot. Your routine. All of that is inside the box. And when we’re talking about teaching, children are not just children, but teaching anyone, you know. Through college age I have been I was in the classroom for 13 years. The last five years have been doing professional development and in an adjunct so 18 years total. But, um, when you’re teaching. My question is, Why is there a box? Ah, the boxes. The box just limits us. So I want people to destroy the box. Forget thinking outside of it. Just get rid of it all together.

Jamie Hipp

Great food for thought. So I know our listeners would love to hear about your creative adventures with early childhood learners all the way through your college learners today.

Jed Dearybury

Well, it’s been a journey. Um, and I can definitely tell you I’m more creative today in my teaching than I was in my first year of teaching this because creativity is a skill that can be in crafted and honed and built upon Maya Angelou who says that you cannot use up creativity. The more that you use it, the more you have. And I can definitely say that has been true for me. Over the course of the years I’ve done lots of different things in the classroom, had a piano in my classroom since the first day, and that aided in the creativity that I did because I would sit at the piano. We make up songs about our learning. I would have the kids make up songs with me. To connect with our learning. I love going outside in nature to find creativity. One of my favorite PD sessions that I do is called Take a Walk Art side and I literally lead the group of learners whoever they are through through ah, the surrounding nature of whatever the venue is. And we look for art and nature. We look for creative uses of the things that we see in nature. It’s just a lot of fun to to do that. This semester actually just finished up today, um, a creativity in play class at the University of South Carolina upstate. And it has been a fantastic course to see college students playing and learning. And I heard some reviews of the class this afternoon as we were wrapping up. The college students are so hungry for that kind of learning they deserve more than a power point. They deserve more than lecture because their hands on experimental learning that’s delivered in creative mind set, um so that the learning will stick and be meaningful and valuable to them as they go out into their fields.

Jamie Hipp

and I know a majority of the teachers listening today, whether they’re pre service teachers, early career teachers or even veteran teachers would have loved to have had you as an adjunct professor at their university in their time getting their teacher peppered preparation credentials, teacher preparation credentials. So I’m sure you hear this a lot from teachers that you work with. But there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the instructional day to even think about creativity. So how can our listeners find the time to embrace and encourage creativity?

Jed Dearybury

Well, I I tell this to people a lot who say that they don’t have the time. I personally don’t believe you have. You don’t have time not to do, um, creativity, and it has to be woven into your content. As professionals, we have to figure out where those nooks and crannies are. For example, I do a learning experience where I have participants rethink the the purpose of a ruler. Most people assume that a ruler is for two things measurement in a straight line, drawing a straight line. As the experience unfolds, I have them create list upon list of different purposes in different uses for the ruler. I refrained the space that they’re using the ruler. One of my favorite things is to ask participants if the ancient Egyptians had a ruler, what could they have done with a ruler? And what I do there is I’m taking that creative thought of repurposing the ruler and dropping it into an area of the curriculum that kids have. The students have to be knowledgeable about ancient Egyptians. Um, and I believe it’s sixth grade curriculum. Let’s say you’re in the fifth grade curriculum where you’re learning about Barrier Island. What? What would a ruler be useful for on the barrier islands if you understand the content of Barrier Island and you use the creativity of rethinking the ruler, that is bringing that creative felt into the experience. A lot of people think that creativity is limited to art, and I’ve often said that um, art is always creative. But being creative is not always art. The reason that artists are known as creatives is because they take the playing ordinary, the simple, and they make it into something else. They take a blank canvas and they see a vision and they train it. They take a lump of clay, and I sculpted into something useful. Um, they used their bodies to twist and turn to tell a story and and what that is that’s using their creative thought in with their media. What we as teachers have to do is look at our content and see what our content is and learn how to bring that creative thought into it. Think of it in a different way. Think of it like that ruler. The ruler could be so many different things that could be a bridge for ants to get away for as they escape the big grasshoppers on their island. It could be a bridge. I mean, it could be a surfboard for Barbie. It could be a ah little peg leg for a miniature pirate. I mean, there’s there’s lots of different things that a ruler could be besides a measurement tool or a straight line tool. And there’s lots of ways to deliver lessons to do deliver that content beyond the way that we’re doing it right now. We’ve just got to we’ve got to reframe our thinking.

Jamie Hipp

I love this idea of reframing existing materials because I think we all consider creativity to be something that’s gonna cost us. Ah, lots of money. And of course, we’re all funding deficient these days. And I know the PD session I attended that that you facilitated. We used paint swatches borrowed. Put that in quotes from the hardware store, and you also had issues. Some white computer paper. So what are some other materials other than rulers and paper and even paint swatches that you would encourage teachers to use to promote student creativity?

Jed Dearybury

So there’s a couple that I’m obsessed with. I’m obsessed with Play-dough. I love Play-dough. At Costco, I got 50 cans of Play-dough for 10 bucks, so that didn’t totally break the bank on 50 cans. That was a good amount. You can reuse it over and over. I think that’s a great tool. Um, I love to use tin full. You go the dollar tree route and get roles of tin foil there. But I have found that the box on Amazon is is a little cheaper for what you want to do with it. I love hats that have kids sculpt with tinfoil. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about inviting creativity into the class, especially creativity in an art form, um, kids say, Oh, I can’t draw where I can’t paint. Well, I’ll try to find a media that nobody is really excellent at. Nobody’s really excellent it at Play-dough. It takes some doing. I mean, there are some Play-dough sculptors in the world that a really awesome at it. But but most people that you meet or not expert play-dough sculptor. Same with a tin foil. I love to put colored masking tape on the walls. It’s beautiful. And it’s a way to get thinking out in a unique way. Sticking it up there is another cheap option. Recycled materials. There is a, um, place up in the upstate of South Carolina called I’m Recraft. Greenbow Recraft. That’s it. Sorry. Looking it up. Recraft Greenbox. That literally has just a space that you can go and create with all of these recycled materials. And your listeners may be thinking Oh, well, that sounds like art. Well, it is. It can be art. But it also could be the the, um, outcome of a STEAM project. It could be the outcome of, ah, unit own, um, the solar system. There’s that. The sky’s the limit. There is no end to the possibilities of what you could do and the materials that you could use.

Jamie Hipp

And earlier, when you were talking about taking a walk art side for something like that, can teachers even use twigs and sticks and leaves and rocks that they find around their school?

Jed Dearybury

Absolutely. That, like I said, that was That’s one of my favorite sessions to to to do because it’s different every single time because you don’t know what nature is gonna be around. I love a PD at the beginning of my session to ask for participants to pick up a leaf. They named the leaf. They find another leaf in the group to converse with a made up leaf story about where they came from. Then, right in the middle of their story, I pretend that a storm comes up and all the leaves have to hang on so immediately. All the participants are role playing. They are creative storytelling. They are practicing their speech. There’s just hundreds of things going on in that one little moment. They carried the leaves all the way around with him. I cause them sometimes to take notes on the back of the leaf. If it’s a healthy leaves this time of year, that leaves or crumbly, so it doesn’t work as well. But you still carrying it around. Spider webs inspire creativity. If there’s vines and bark on the trees and, um, just blades of grass can this spark creativity? One time I was doing take a walk outside. I had the participants reenact the story of the three little pigs. They had a dividing them into groups, and one built a house out of twigs with sticks all around. And then they built a house out of straw, which was grass and pine needles, and whatever else they could find that was strong, and then they had another one that built the house out of bricks, which was stone and rocks. Whatever they found around and and then somebody had to pretend to be the big bad wolf. And I remember it was great. And these were adults doing this, not little kids. These were adults. And, um, it was so much fun to show them how simple it was to bring creativity into the content areas. You know, the three little pigs is  is a nursery fairy tale that has been around for a long time, and it is part of early childhood curriculum but also teaching kids to analyze text at a higher grade. You can still use those text to introduce those skills. And so, um, it’s just that was really fun. And I love that you brought art walk outside back up so I could talk about that again. That’s a fun, fun session.

Jamie Hipp

That sounds extremely awesome and epic and I don’t know about our listeners, but I’ve had so many ah ha moments in this conversation. I can’t count them all. Where can teachers find out more about you and the work that you do? If they’d like to follow up?

Jed Dearybury

I’m very present on social media on instagram and Twitter. I am at MrDearybury. My website is mrdearybury.com, which you can get in touch with me, um, through the website there. If you’d like me to come to your school and lead a walk outside, um, are leading them to destroy the box session or or just talk to you about creativity and ways to find it in the nooks and crannies. And like you said at the beginning of episode, the number one thing that you need to remember is time, space and opportunity. Give your kids time, give them the space and give them the opportunity to be creative. And they’re gonna blow you away with their thinking. They were much deeper thinkers than we ever thought, and we got to get that out of him and creativity and plays the way to do it.

Jamie Hipp

Teaching Trailblazers is a production of the Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM, and I’ve been your host. Jamie Hipp. This podcast is produced, edited and mixed by Jaime Patterson.