Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Unplugged: Celebrating Creativity and Innovation

Last week, we held the Museum’s annual fundraising gala, “Unplugged – The Way to Play.” It was a fun and festive event that celebrated creativity and innovation, and honored seven local innovators who exemplify creative thinking. They shared their reflections on the importance of play – for their own creativity, and at the Children’s Museum.

What were your favorite creative ways to play as a kid, and how did they contribute to your creativity as an adult?

Ava Anderson – Founder/CEO, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic:
Hands down – dress up! Another favorite: fort building with my brother, from snow forts to elaborate pillow and blanket-covered contraptions in our grandmother’s living room.

Barrett Bready – President/CEO, NABsys, Inc.:
I loved interacting with nature, like an exploratory hike through the woods or observing animal life in my favorite stream or a Rhode Island ocean inlet.  I could spend hours collecting rocks or shells.  My career also involves exploring the natural world... just on the nanoscale.

Dennis Littky – Co-Founder/Co-Director, Big Picture Learning and The Met School: My creativity was shown through playing sports and drawing. My parents supported all creative acts that helped me keep being creative throughout my life.

Navyn Salem – Executive Director, Edesia Global Nutrition: My mother never let my younger brother and me watch TV, ever, unless it was Sesame Street at dinnertime. We had to make something up. We made instruments out of the vacuum cleaner; forts out of sheets; telecommunications systems out of string, index cards and clothespins; new living spaces out of the closets; and played Risk and Monopoly for hours.I still love to play games of any kind, like to make my own cards, and detest the racket of the TV unless it is dark out.

Jim Stallman – Owner, M.H. Stallman Co: We used to build forts and make structures in a lot of different ways. We did with sticks and wood what kids are doing [in Imagination Playground] with our foam blocks.

Max Winograd – President/Co-Founder, NuLabel Technologies: I set up a fort with chicken wire and carpeting in my parents' unfinished basement, where my friends and I would take apart electronics and engineer new contraptions. We created our own newspaper during elementary school that eventually became a self-published paper in 5th grade. And my three younger brothers and I invented sports like base-ketball, which involved a basketball and a baseball bat.

Meg Wirth – Founder/CEO, Maternova:
I used to do a lot of strange things like make stews and dyes out of flowers and berries with my best friend. We also performed surgeries on fruit and transplanted the heart (seed) with a bead, inserting Alka seltzer to speed the healing, and spent a lot of time mummifying things. Maybe there is a link between the apple surgery and my interest in health care.  I was definitely encouraged to play outside and to use creativity whenever and wherever.

How do you think the Children's Museum nurtures kids' creativity?

Barrett Bready: I was fortunate to have been introduced to the Children's Museum at a very early age when it was located in Pawtucket – first as a participant and then as a "staff kid," when my mom worked as Director of Development.  I am pleased to see that the concept of "hands-on" learning has been preserved and expanded.

Navyn Salem: My girls and I spent hours at the Children’s Museum when they were little.  I was even a bit teary-eyed when my youngest “graduated” from Littlewoods.  The Museum is an amazing space to escape to. Children have fun and learn something at the same time.  We are lucky to have this treasure in our city.

Max Winograd: The hands-on play at the Children's Museum stretches a child's definition of what's possible. It also reinforces classroom learning in ways far more entrepreneurial and self-driven than a typical elementary school classroom environment. Most importantly, that hands-on play and learning becomes more ingrained than any other method of instruction. I bet children who regularly played at and explored the Children's Museum were found to have – later in life – launched new ventures and emerged as highly creative, innovative adults and leaders.

Learn more about the innovators' and the Museum's creative work in this Unplugged slideshow:

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