Why should we all use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate.
— Brenda Ueland, Hands on Scotland

Are we such stuff as dreams are made of?  How are we such stuff as dreams are made of?   Daring to dream gives us the opportunity to explore the resource for creativity within dreams.

Ted Hughes (1988) noted that there is both an inner imagination focussed on interior reality and an outer one.  He was concerned that we as a culture were losing a language to connect the one to the other. He was concerned that our focus, aided by the camera, had become so entranced by the outer, that the traditions and facility to understand and navigate the inner imagination was waning.  This was disconcerting, he believed not because the inner imagination would quietly fade away, but rather it would become inchoate, tangled in upon itself and prone to sneaking up and pouncing.

Hughes reminds us that Plato, whose careful stepwise argumentation laid the foundations for the scientific method, nevertheless recommended that children’s education should not concern these arguments, rather it should be an exploration of myth. In a child’s imagination Hugh argues that a myth

that engages, say, earth and underworld . . . contains not merely the contents of these two places; it reconciles their contradictions in a workable fashion and holds open the way between them.  The child can re-enter the story at will, look around him or her, find all those things, and consider them at leisure (1988:32).

Myths are the treasure store of the interior world.  In many myths - the outer sense of the word dream, that is - ambitious adventurous undertakings can be found.  But in myth the interior meaning of dream, the monstrous, mysterious and quixotic are integral to the adventure.  It is this very mixture that calls on a myth’s hero to hone the important creativity skills of Open Mindedness, Curiosity, Problem Solving, and Imagination. The hero’s use of these skills to meet challenges in unexpected ways is what fascinates us about myth and make them so memorable.

The following activities invite children to explore the bridge between the inner and outer world that stories offer.  The pared/small group activities provided invite children to first draw as a first step to articulating resources from their dreams and then share.  Children can then use their drawings, for example, giving each other a tour of their dream landscape or comic strip. The drawings provides a scaffold for their developing storytelling and also serves to help focus listening.  The drawings provide touchstones for ongoing individual and collaborative storytelling.  These activities can be used alongside a Dream Journal where children can make notes and drawing as they occur to them.  We suggest that this be something they keep for themselves without expectation that it will be handed in for assessment.

 

Each drawing activity begins with a time of quiet imagination gathering.  Many teachers will now be familiar with mindfulness activities, and can draw on this practice to help transition into activities.  The script for activities is a suggestion which can be adapted to draw on teachers’ own expertise and the temperament of each classroom.  Introducing the myth at the close of the session provides an opportunity for it to simmer in imaginations, allowing the “hare brain to slow down” (Journey to Excellence, n.d.) before being drawn upon.

As with all circle time and PSE activity, it is important to wisely gauge the depth with which topics are explored. It is important that all children are aware and willing to play their part in developing trust and maintaining the classroom as a safe space when engaging in creative work.  Encouraging children to develop “rules for the expedition” as they embark on these activities is a good idea.  As with any adventure unforeseen circumstances can arise and it is wise to have contingency plans to batten down the hatches.  Here Roal Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant can be of assistance.  All his dreams are kept in glass bottles.  Should activities need to be suspended for any reason a way to focus imaginations to this task is to invite children to blow an imaginary glass bubble themselves, tuck away what they are working on within it and safely place it in their own mental travelling case, to be taken out again when time and space permit.

A Pedagogy for Exploring the Creative Dimensions of Dreams will be ready download by 1st Sept.

Beth is a storyteller and a lecturer in Community Learning and Participation and is interested in the interface between formal and informal learning contexts. Her PhD work explored storytellilng and children’s activity and she has since worked with a number of creative interdisciplinary projects that involve visual and dramatic arts involving participants and encouraging their own creativity across mediums of expression. She is always eager to help design new initiatives along these lines. Read more