Curiosity Creates, an ALSC Grant Program

by Dorcas Hand

The Winter 2016 issue of Children and Libraries (Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children) clued me to look further at this program from ALSC (a division of ALA). The full write-up “Curiosity Creates Innovative Library Programming For Children”, written for the Association for Library Service to Children by Paula Holmes is available online – but a few excerpts will be of interest to Texas school librarians looking for creative ideas.

In August 2015, ALSC “publicized the request for proposals for a new funding initiative, the Curiosity Creates grant, sponsored by The Walt Disney Company. This award was an opportunity for public libraries to receive funding to promote and develop creativity skills in children ages 6 to 14, focusing on one or more of the seven critical components of creativity, as designated by the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC).” Yes, public libraries – but read on anyway. They awarded 79 grants of up to $7,500 each.

The full information about the seven critical components of creativity appears in the CCC’s 2015 white paper Inspiring a Generation to Create: Critical Components of Creativity in Children, written by Helen Hadani and Garrett Jaegar. The authors detail both the components and “research-supported strategies to promote” each component.
These are the components
  • Imagination and Originality: Imagine and explore original ideas
  • Flexibility: Maintain openness to unique and novel experiences
  • Decision Making: Make thoughtful choices that support creative efforts
  • Communication and Self-Expression: Communicate ideas and true self with confidence
  • Motivation: Demonstrate internal motivation to achieve a meaningful goal
  • Collaboration: Develop social skills that foster teamwork
  • Action and Movement: Boost creative potential through physical activitytive potential through physical activity 

Paula Holmes details in the ALSC article a few “best practices” from the evaluation process – and these point out several points at which the grant winners collaborated with local schools. I mention this specifically to remind all of you school librarians that you can take these ideas, and best practices, to inspire your own projects in support of student creativity. Curiosity inspires creativity at the same time that creativity inspires curiosity. And really, this entire grants program is about Maker Spaces without using that word. Every winner found ways to engage students to think beyond a correct answer to make, build or understand something they didn’t know before – to follow curiosity with enthusiasm and support. And then you can see details of winning programs – lots of them.

“Additional criteria were taken into consideration for the best-practice report as the application process brought to light highly creative solutions and strategies to overcoming barriers to creativity. These barriers included transportation; food insecurity; language; lack of outreach to underserved populations; and experience barriers (that include novel experiences and foundation literacy, not just limited to ELL/ESL); perceptions of staff, administration, Friends, and trustees of what children’s programming at the library looks like.” I’m pretty sure all school librarians push against these challenges every day!

“Amy Derrington and the Singletary Memorial Library (TX) program “Kids Being Kids” deserves mention for their creative transportation solution, a “walking bus.” The library is in walking distance to the elementary school. The library staff members met the kids at the stop sign by the school and walked the students back to the library. On rainy days, the library staff held umbrellas.” Congrats to Amy Derrington – and look what collaboration between the public and school libraries could offer your students!

Holmes also offers these Keys to Success
  • Allowed children of all abilities to be creative together.
  • Project connected to the research, ensuring inclusive creativity programming.
  • Outreach to underserved populations with a clear plan and partnerships.
  • Collaborated with a partner with a shared mission and vision.
  • Partner is a known expert in the area and provided training for all levels of staff throughout the library.
  • Additional partnerships formed as the project developed, widening the outreach to the community.
  • Marketed the program through open houses inviting key players who work with the outreach target population.
  • Library was not afraid to reexamine themselves.
So, we’re looking at an ALSC grants program and process that focused on public libraries – but we see ways to make school libraries better. The seven components of creativity are true everywhere – let’s make them work for our students. So are the Keys to Success. We’ve discovered that Making (aka creativity) excites kids, but that making doesn’t have to mean expensive components, robotics or even computers. That is also true whether in public or school libraries. And we have learned that different types of libraries can collaborate to build more access for more students – so how can Texas school libraries take these ideas to build some great new projects that I can feature in this blog??? Seriously – get thinking. On your mark. Get set. Go – it’s a new calendar year. Let your own creative juices flow so that you model excitement, curiosity and creativity for your students!

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