Our Director’s Research on Creativity & Cross-Cultural Music

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We asked Founder and Director of Magic Tree of Music, Dr Shari Lindblom, to share the research delivered in her PhD on the topic of children’s creativity, which was the catalyst for Magic Tree of Music. Shari shares the key points of her research that spanned over 5 years, and the findings to support the importance of cross-cultural music in enhancing children’s creativity.

By Dr Shari Lindblom

Around the world, people are becoming more aware of the importance of creativity skills in children’s education as researchers and experts are shining the light on this topic. 

World leading education experts such as Professor Yong Zhao have started publicly talking about students needing creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving and persistence in the 21st century. A recent World Economic Forum report has identified the importance of creativity as a key skill. A number of countries such as Finland, Wales and South Korea already incorporate strategies to develop children’s creativity skills within their education curricula with a focus on inquiry-based learning and openness to diverse experiences, all with the recognition that creativity skills can be taught and nurtured.

The message is clear: creativity is crucial.

Having a background in STEM as well as in music, when I embarked on my PhD study I knew that creativity was essential to important break-throughs in many fields. I wanted to focus on how music and the arts can enhance creative skills and contribute to findings of their importance for children’s development.

From my doctoral research, I have found an approach that utilises the many benefits of a music and arts program to develop children’s creativity. This ‘Creativity Program’ highlights the benefits of exposure to a set of music, arts, dance and drama activities from different cultures with a focus on improvisation, a diversity of sounds, rhythms and structures and self-directed and collaborative learning and experimentation.

The program draws on knowledge that children’s early exposure to initiatives that promote creative learning provide a good foundation for creative thinking, assisting in the later development of creative intellect. This program was used with many children to analyse their creativity skills before and after taking part in the Creativity Program.

What were the key findings in your research?

Several factors, highlighted in my research, increased children’s musical and general creativity, with indications of imaginative, metaphoric and creative thinking increased during and after the program.

To understand these factors that contributed to increased creativity in children in more detail, I will highlight each of them individually:

🌟 Storytelling

Children participating in the program used a combination of metaphor and imagery invoked through the cultural stories, which enabled them to think more flexibly and from different perspectives.

🌟 Familiarity and Variety

Children’s familiarity with the different artistic mediums grew as the program progressed, allowing for greater fluency and originality. At the same time, the excitement created from the variety and ‘newness’ of the activities helped develop a certain tolerance of uncertainty, a factor that has been shown to be key for creative ability.

🌟 Creating Music

Children developed an increased confidence and ability to create new musical material after their program participation, showing the importance of confidence in allowing creativity to flourish.

🌟 Improvisation

Children become more able to self-direct their musical experimentation and were more confident to improvise, not only based on what they had learned, but finally they became more confident to improvise freely on their own, highlighting that creativity requires some knowledge of the fundamental ‘building blocks’ as well as the ability to improvise. 

🌟 Group Creativity

A combination of individual and group creativity was evident during and after the programs and when children were playing together in the Javanese gamelan in particular, they drew inspiration from listening to others and playing as part of a group.

🌟 Family Support

A supportive family environment for learning was also a contributing factor to increased children’s creative development and children that were able to share their creative work with their family group had a stronger progression through the program.

🌟 Enthusiasm for Learning

The different musical and artistic knowledge that was acquired during the program transferred to other areas of the children’s lives and there was a general renewed enthusiasm for learning, not only just in the children’s regular artistic extra-curricular activities but often in some other areas unrelated to the program, such as academics or recreational endeavors.

🌟 Encouraging Experimentation and Exploration

Finally, the importance of the pedagogical approach used in the Creativity Program should be highlighted as this was also fundamental to a more conducive environment for creative skills development. By encouraging the children to experiment and explore with their new instruments and materials, a style of ‘discovery-based learning’ was employed, which was important for the enhanced children’s creativity.

Creativity can have profound impacts on all areas of a child’s life. It’s an important skillset to build and nourish to life-long success. The lack of educational content with a focus on creativity was my own motivation for my research and now the Magic Tree of Music programs. I’m excited to share a range of programs that are supported by research and have the power to enhance children’s creativity. 

So, with that, let’s get creative! ✨🎨 🎼


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