C is for Crayons

The third in a series discussing the Class of 2030.

I remember one Christmas getting the SUPER large box of Crayola Crayons. One hundred undulating colours of possibility. I was absolutely giddy with excitement. Imagine all the beautiful things I could draw! Astronauts or ballet dancers, camels or dragons, elephants or fairies, anything I could think of! The thought was staggering and thrilling and


Was it really the crayons that elicited all this fervour? No. You know what it was?

The exhilarating prospect of creation.

Few things have the capability of bestowing so much satisfaction but creating certainly does. More than satisfaction though, creation – the result of creativity – is necessary for our children to succeed in life. In the summary report The Class of 2030 and Life Ready Learning: The Technology Imperative, the result of research collaboration between Microsoft and McKinsey & Company’s Education Practice, a dominant theme emerged: students need to explore, unlock their curiosity, and develop their creative potential. Specifically, “the class of 2030 will need deeper cognitive skills in priority areas such as creativity and problem-solving, social-emotional skills such as relationship building, self-awareness, and self-recognition will be increasingly important since they not only support academic learning but also promote well-being.”

I would suggest that creativity is really at the center of all the other priority areas which may seem ironic given that many people automatically think of the Arts when they think of creativity, and deem it unimportant in relation to core subject areas like science and math. It’s a right-brain/left-brain thing, right? No, it isn’t. Creativity runs through ALL subject areas. Scott Barry Kaufman, in his blog “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity” on the Scientific American Blog Network, reveals that many

thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists … are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional and overly simplistic notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

In fact, their findings suggest that

Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain.

So really, creativity encourages higher cognitive functioning like problem-solving. In fact, Nancy C. Andreasen, a leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity, has found that creative people have “stronger activations” and the “pattern has held true for both the artists and the scientists.” Andreasen concludes that

the arts and the sciences are seen as separate tracks, and students are encouraged to specialize in one or the other. If we wish to nurture creative students, this may be a serious error.

While creativity can be seen to have strong ties to developing stronger cognitive functions, it also supports social-emotional growth. There are many studies that testify to the significant impact that creativity and the act of creating something has on emotional well-being. Painting, woodworking, knitting, and countless other pastimes that involve making something have all been shown to reduce stress which supports not only better physical health but mental wellbeing. Perhaps the boom in maker spaces attests to the recognition that making things is good for you. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s research, Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI, states that

Emotional well-being is a predictor of academic and employment success, and emotional literacy is crucial for self-awareness and navigating through life. As artificial intelligence transforms the labor market, the importance of human skills like creativity, interpersonal understanding, and empathy become more valuable.

So creativity and creation are strongly tied not only to improved cognitive skills but social-emotional well-being, and even success in life.

I’m convinced, let’s break out the crayons everybody!


Andreasen, Nancy C. “Secrets of the Creative Brain.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 14 Feb. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/07/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2019.
Holzapfel, Barbara. “Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI: New Research from Microsoft Education and The Economist Intelligence Unit |.” Microsoft EDU, Microsoft Education, 20 Feb. 2019, educationblog.microsoft.com/en-us/2019/02/emotion-and-cognition-in-the-age-of-ai-new-research-from-microsoft-education-and-the-economist-intelligence-unit/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2019.
Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, A Division of Springer Nature America, Inc., 19 Aug. 2013, blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-real-neuroscience-of-creativity/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2019.

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