Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
An abstract concept, creativity is often associated with geniuses, artists and uninhibited children left alone with scissors and a cardboard box. Myths swirl around creativity: It’s an inborn gift. It’s got nothing to do with ‘real-life.’ It vanishes with age.
If you’ve ever witnessed a child’s creativity - whether it’s dress-up and imaginative play, tinkering with gadgets (even when they’re not supposed to), or designing towers with Legos - you know there is an instinctive component to creative play, some sort of magic that happens when the right kids in the right context light the right spark.
And it seems to happen easier for some than for others.
So why is it that one child sees a pile of building blocks and instantly envisions a futuristic skyline, and others look at the same pile and announce, “I’m bored!”?
Researchers — from psychologists to neuroscientists to educators — are showing that creativity is not a fixed trait. Nor is it a fleeting stage of child development, destined to evaporate during adolescence for those who are not “naturally” creative. Like its counterpart — critical thinking skills (stay tuned for our upcoming post...) — creativity is something that can be fostered, a muscle that we can strengthen — given the proper conditions.
More than just art projects, creativity is about making connections, problem-solving, and finding the spark to present a new idea. (More on ‘original ideas’ soon.)
Once you broaden the definition, creative activities are not about the medium you’re using or the issue you’re tackling. When you...
...focus more on process than product,
...respect the possibility of multiple approaches to a single problem,
...and when you get inspired by the world around you,
you’re using — and building — your creative thinking skills.
Creativity is as relevant in STEM fields as it is in the arts; it’s as much about self-expression as it is about empathy; and it can empower you to develop fantasy worlds and to dig deep into the world that’s right at your fingertips.
Creativity, as we understand it at Prisma, is also the most profound way to demonstrate mastery of material. We take a constructionist philosophy, which means that you haven’t truly learned something unless you can externalize it: It’s never about regurgitating information, it’s about absorbing new ideas and then using them to create something of your own that you then share with others.
Creativity is a form of self-expression, but the creative process doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The most creative people have the deepest and widest range of knowledge. Everyone takes inspiration from somewhere when they're coming up with new ideas.
Whether it’s people-watching in a new part of town, strolling through a new ecosystem, or tasting a new genre of book, film or tv — expose kids to new and different things from a young age. If they are always in the same environment, always reading and watching the same things, playing the same games, and interacting with the same people, they're not going to have that new well of inspiration from which to draw.
New and different experiences, exposure to new and different ideas, preps the soil of creativity.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but who better to learn from than our favorite artists, inventors and performers? Encourage remixing and copying the songs, books and images your kids love; it’s how they’ll learn creative techniques.
In our cycle theme dedicated to creativity, “Remix,” inspired by ideas such as those in Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” and Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist", we bring those ideas into the curriculum. We teach kids the difference between plagiarism (passing off someone else’s ideas as your own) and inspiration (learning by making an attributed mashup of somebody’s else’s ideas).
Try these activities inspired by real Prisma projects in our “Remix” theme to ‘steal like an artist’:
-Take inspiration from two different artists or musicians to create your own work of art.
-Upcycle by taking materials meant for one purpose and transforming them into something else.
-Create fan fiction based on a favorite movie or book (write a prequel or sequel, retell the same story from a different perspective).
For kids who already know what they like, it’s important to shake up the snow globe every so often, so they’re getting fresh input. Try building on the creative activity they already like, by introducing a new tool:
-If you have a kid who really likes drawing on their iPad offer them traditional art supplies and vice versa.
-If you have a kid who loves to code games, invite them to experiment with robotics.
-If you have a kid who loves stories, introduce them to an app like Scratch that teaches coding through storytelling and animation.
-If you have a kid who loves music, let them record their own compositions using tools like Garage Band.
Balancing newness and familiarity can often be the recipe that allows kids to venture out of their comfort zone willingly.
Creative thinking may happen when you’re lying in a field, staring at the clouds passing by — but most creative people also require structure to do their best work (a belief shared by the Montessori approach).
At Prisma we balance those twin needs in the open-ended, creative projects that are the focus of each academic cycle. This project-based approach, in which kids choose from a series of broad project prompts, allows them to hone problem-solving skills in real-world contexts, ensuring they develop core competencies without making them follow step-by-step instructions.
At the same time, sometimes kids truly need to be off the clock. (Cloud-gazing encouraged!) Give kids unstructured free time and unstructured explorations, whether it’s for free play or a self-directed research project, as many of our learners choose to try.
Whatever the outcome, they’ll be adding to the well of knowledge from which they’ll be able to draw at any time.
A misplaced word of criticism, however well-meant, can stifle children’s creativity — especially in the early stages of a project. So make sure to give kids ample space to explore and to decide for themselves if they’re on the path that feels right to them.
When they come to you in search of approval, take the opportunity to ask them open-ended questions about their process, which helps them learn the skill of meta-cognition (thinking about thinking).
On the flip side, part of healthy child development involves learning to take feedback; it’s part of the growth mindset. Any good creative needs to have an audience in mind and to be able to iterate on their ideas.
As kids work through a creative idea, it helps for them to get feedback from multiple perspectives, whether parents, peers or teachers. When our Prisma learners gather feedback on their projects midway through a cycle, part of their task is to weigh the various options and perspectives before deciding which to incorporate and which to let go.
When you internalize the fact that there are infinite ways to approach an idea, you become more tolerant of different perspectives. Even something as apparently as straightforward as a math problem can be an opportunity to reinforce creative development: If you teach them there is more than one way to get to an answer — but all are equally valid — you go a long way in fostering creativity.
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
Unit studies blend multiple subjects together to create real-world, interest-driven learning experiences. Steal the approach our curriculum experts use to create themes with a free downloadable unit study planner.
“The curriculum at Prisma allows learners to learn about their strengths and use their passions in an organic and interdisciplinary way. The kids have the freedom to choose by having differentiated projects, quests, enrichments, and clubs.”
You might be hearing from friends, extended family, and random strangers in the doctor’s office “there’s no way your kid will be able to get into a good college as a homeschooler.” Impolite, yes. True? Let’s figure it out.
“The amount of support and check-ins our learners have at Prisma is unparalleled compared to anywhere else I’ve ever worked.”
Each of the most popular homeschool styles has existed for a long time, and each has diehard evangelizers and fervent critics. From classical to unit studies to unschooling, this guide will help you find the form best suited to your family.
“What most drew me to Prisma was the chance to work with a fully project-based curriculum custom-designed for middle schoolers who are hungry for academic engagement.”
The best online school for your family is a question of priorities: More support or lower tuition costs? Traditional or project-based academics? Asynchronous or lots of interaction? We break it down in this post.
David Waitzer is the Founding Learning Coach for our first cohort in East Asia & Oceania. In this post, he describes how his background teaching and leading for innovative international education companies will help him accelerate the growth of Prisma learners.
Prisma has hundreds of learners across the Western Hemisphere. Along the way, we've gotten requests to launch cohorts in new time zones from families around the world who want to be part of what we’re building. Next up is East Asia & Oceania!
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
The pandemic has made homeschooling easier than ever before with a boom of online options from curriculum, to part-time programs, to full-time schools. But which is best for your family?
Prisma High School’s Launchpad Program will prepare learners to tackle their next phase, be it college, training, or an exciting career. Trevor Baker, our LaunchPad program designer, describes how he sets learners up for success.
You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
One of the most fun parts of being a homeschooling parent is creating fun learning experiences for your kiddos! In this post, we share our favorite at-home activities and online resources.
Our Head of Middle School Curriculum explains how her team blends core subjects and real-world topics to design “hard fun” cycle themes.
One of the reasons our team wanted to develop a new kind of school was because we felt traditional schooling doesn’t put enough emphasis on developing emotionally intelligent kids. But what is emotional intelligence and how do you develop it?
"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.