Of games, creativity and multicultural environment
“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players - Of games, creativity and multicultural environment introduction. They have their exits and entrances; Each man in his time plays many parts.” Perhaps these words from the famous English poet and dramatist, William Shakespeare captured the picture of man and society in all ages. Everybody has his own role to play. Everybody has his own lines to say. And everybody has his own time.
Indeed, every person is unique. Each one has his own views and preferences. What may be creative to one may not be to another. What is perceived to be already creative can be enhanced with more minds thinking and more hands working. In a nutshell, creativity is like life. It is profound. It deepens depending on how one thinks, feels, and interacts with his environment. Hence, a multicultural educational platform is a great seed for a better and more developed educational system.
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Cultural diversity is not something new. People are born with different family backgrounds and mingle outside the confines of their families’ beliefs and values as they grow older. From simple family culture, people’s exposure and interaction with different cultures can expound exponentially and with much complexity. To overcome cultural differences and barriers, education is a promising means in advocating a better society where everyone can co-exist symbiotically and harmoniously. After all, as the former South Africa President Nelson Mandela puts it, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
To be specific, multicultural education emerged as a concept that addresses multiculturalism. Over the past 30 years, several definitions have emerged and conceptualized. The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) defined multicultural education as “a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity.” NAME also resolved that since “equality and equity are not the same thing, multicultural education attempts to offer all students an equitable education opportunity, while at the same time encouraging students to critique society in the interest of social justice.”1
For educators, they agreed on defining multicultural education in relation to its parameters as:
An education that is multicultural is comprehensive and fundamental to all educational endeavors. Given an understanding of the nature of human differences and the realization that individuals approach concepts from their own perspectives, advocates of education that is multicultural is the concept’s central ingredient.2
In 1996, five discrete theoretical approaches to multicultural education were identified by Sleeter:
· Advocates of the Teaching the Culturally Different approach attempt to raise the academic achievement of students of color through culturally relevant instruction.
· In the Human Relations approach students are taught about commonalities of all people through understanding their differences in institutional and economic power.
· The Single Group Studies approach is about the histories and contemporary issues of oppression of people of color, women, low socioeconomic groups, and gays and lesbians.
· The Multicultural Education approach promotes the transformation of the educational process to reflect the ideals of democracy in a pluralistic society. Students are taught content using instructional methods that value cultural knowledge and differences.
· Educators who use the Social Reconstructionist approach to multicultural education go a step further to teach students about oppression and discrimination. Students learn about their roles as social change agents so that they may participate in the generation of a more equitable society.3
To summarize, Hanley stated that, “essentially, multicultural education is about social change through education,” and it “harbors a place for a multitude of voices in a multicultural society and a place for many dreams.”4
With the acknowledgment of increasing cultural diversity as an enriching classroom and curriculum endeavor, will the educators also agree that a creative environment flourishes from and blends with multicultural education?
Multicultural Education as a Creative Environment
Going back to the profoundness of creativity as mentioned at the beginning of the essay, what then is creativity?
Creativity is defined in many different ways. To some, creativity is doing things in a unique way. Others described it as “thinking outside the box.” Some believe creativity involves flexible thinking whereas others look at it as a special type of problem solving. And creativity has been described as the production of novel thoughts, solutions, and/or products based on previous experiences and knowledge (Hendrick, 1986)5. For an artistic view of definition, E.Paul Torrance stated that:
Creativity is digging deeper.
Creativity is looking twice.
Creativity is crossing out mistakes.
Creativity is talking/listening to a cat.
Creativity is getting in deep water.
Creativity is getting out from behind locked doors.
Creativity is plugging in the sun.
Creativity is wanting to know.
Cerativity is having a ball.
Creativity is building sand castles.
Creativity is singing in your own way.
Creativity is shaking hands with the future.6
In short, as Mary Lou Cook puts it, “creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”7 Creativity then is not a gift only a few people are born with. Creativity is not limited to Ludwig Van Beethoven’s symphony, Leonardo de Vinci’s work of art, Galileo’s study of astronomy, and many other creative geniuses whose contributions have changed or influenced the world. Creativity is possible for both adults and children. But the underlying challenge is what the well-known Spanish painter and sculptor, Pablo Picasso said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” How then can one person continue engaging in a creative environment?
The answer to the above question is simple – one can continue engaging in a creative environment by actively participating in it and repeatedly exposing himself to it. The environment consists of people, places, objects, and experience. All of these elements can impact how a person think, feel and act from early childhood to adulthood. And it’s up to the person how far can he interact with the elements in his environment to enhance his creativity, and others as well. After all, a person is either the effect of his environment or the one affected by his environment.
A kaleidoscope is an analogy that clarifies the relationship between the environment and creativity. The more colorful pieces that are included in the drum of a kaleidoscope, the greater the variety of shapes, colors, and patterns. In creativity, the more experiences one has with people, places or materials, the more possibilities will exist for use in creative activities.8 From here it can be deduced that a creative environment is a venue for sharing and trying new ideas, dismantling differences and merging them together, pushing boundaries and exploring possibilities.
This is what happens in a multicultural environment. Various experiences and culture merge and blend which result in more enriching discussions from varied cultural perspectives. Thus, multicultural education is a creative environment that enhances communication skills, thinking skills, and all curriculum and developmental areas.
In pursuing the purpose of creating a creative multicultural environment, human communication is a tool that is very essential. Throughout the course of history of mankind, people need people to conquer and reign. To overpower and effect change. To love and behold. Even in this highly technological world, characterized by demands for instant food and instant relief, everything else is all about relationships. And everyday, human communication is essential. As defined by Ruben and Stewart, “human communication is the process through which individuals – in relationships, groups, organizations, and societies – respond to and create messages to adapt to the environment and one another.”9
Through human communication, boosted by the advancements in information and communication technologies (ICTs), people need not travel miles from home to discover new things. People have minds to imagine, games to play, and classrooms to actively learn with. If doing these things alone can be fun, probably doing these things with other people can be more fun, and increases creativity as well.
Games as tools in Communicating Multicultural Education
Learning is fun. We learn best when we are having fun. Thus, a common adage goes, “all work with no play makes a dull boy.” According to Bruce Duncan Perry, play fuels healthy development of children, and the continued healthy development of adults. He elaborated:
Play takes many forms, but the heart of all play is pleasure. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t play. We play from birth on – we play using our bodies (building with blocks) and our minds (fantasy play). We use words to play (jokes, wit, humor) and we use props (blocks, toys and games). While the exact pleasure of play evolves, becoming more complex as we grow, play at all ages brings pleasure.10
People play games regardless of age, personality, background, and culture. Hence, it follows that, since play offers children rich learning experiences that enhance all levels of development, same thing may transpire with adults when they play. “Playing is a fundamental process of creative thinking, allowing the child to construct and reconstruct the imagery of rich, early experiences, and thus to grow and develop.”11
Play enables children to make sense of their world; develops social and cultural understandings; allows children to express their thoughts and feelings; fosters flexible and divergent thinking; provides opportunities to meet and solve real problems; and develops language and literacy skills and concepts.12
According to Wellhousen and Crowther’s (2004), play is: enjoyable and pleasurable; self-initiated; active participation; spontaneous; free from direction; integration of experiences; symbolized activity; and process-oriented. They also summarized the value of play as: flexible thinking; divergent thinking; learning to use materials in new ways; learning to solve problems; build language; form and test concepts; develop social skills; develop awareness of feelings; and develop motor skills.13
Another view of play is through the cognitive perspective of the cognitive theorist, Piaget. For him, play was a mode by which children learn to understand their experiences. He identified four types of play that change over time and have different focuses: 1. the sensory-motor play or functional play which is the exploration of objects and materials in the child’s environment; 2. the preoperational play which is dominated by the development of symbols; 3. the construction play wherein children build and construct using a variety of materials. Piaget does not view this play as a separate stage but rather as occurring across several stages; and 4. the games with rules wherein children moved into higher levels of cognitive understanding, and begin to consider the rules imposed by others, and often associated with games and sports.14
The latter will be the focus of this essay. Like any other form of plays, games make our lives more fun, exciting, and create an environment of endless creativity.
Among the many uses and importance of games are:
· Goal setting. Games help people learn how to set goals. In every game, there is a goal that the players need to achieve or accomplish. Playing games can help people to be more focused and to develop determination and motivation in accomplishing goals in life.
· Cultivate team spirit. Team games help people develop team spirit and cooperation. It trains people to work in a team and how to get along with each other to achieve their goals. It cultivates camaraderie and cooperative spirit in exerting a unified effort in achieving the goals they have set.
· Competitive spirit. Games also cultivate a healthy competitive spirit in people. It helps people be more competitive and motivates them to give their best effort in achieving their goals in life.
· Enhances creativity. Games enhance creativity in people. It allows people to be creative and experience life to the fullest. Games bring out the creativity in people to achieve the goals they have set to achieved.
One of the most popular games played by both kids and adult is the board game. Board games have been around for hundred of years. The earliest board game that has been recorded is more than 3,500 years old. Game enthusiasts believe that board games have been around for more than 4,000 years. Although, board games in Asia seem to have been around probably not until about 400 B.C. Even in the ancient world of Greece and Rome, board games were very popular. Its popularity then traveled to other parts of Europe and then eventually to the United States.
In general, board games have two basic types of play. The first type focuses on strategy. Basically, the objective of strategy games is to capture or block opposing pieces, to gain control of larger portions of the game board, to enter pieces on the board so that a number of them form a row, or to trap or eliminate a prey. The second type is known as racing. This type of board game begins at one point on the game board and races along one or more paths to the finish line. Some board games are combination of both types. The very popular game of Monopoly falls into the former type. The game was anchored on economic principles and about the property ownership system. The players in game try to own as much property as they could.
From the importance of play and theories that have been presented, play then is timeless, influential, and vital in a changing society. The games people play or invent create an authentic and real experience into which they, generally, become absorbed. Thus, people learn best when they play. Games make learning fun for it encourages communication and creativity, thus they are effective tools in communicating multicultural education.
To illustrate, there is this game developed by the author which is similar to Monopoly, and was named More Creativity (see Photo 1). The rules are basically the same except that the names of the lands have been changed into the names of the author’s classmates. The author also made a small book (demo) named creative, a small video (demo), and a small plaster (demo) as shown in Photo 2 to present what was taken in the author’s class. The game was played in such a way that the demo will park above any names of the author’s classmates. A parked name will allow that classmate to say only three words to describe the meaning of the creative or the video or the plaster. By writing the meanings shared by each classmate, the whole class was able to observe that everybody have different words and meanings to share. From that game, the author concluded to the class that, multicultural education is a creative environment.
Indeed, creativity goes beyond art and music for it “encompasses all we do: our actions, thoughts, and responses.” Shirrmacher (1998) was right to say that, “creativity is a special and different ay of viewing the world in ways in which there are no right or wrong answers, only possibilities. Think of creativity as an attitude rather than an aptitude.”
Mono-cultural Environment vs. Multicultural Environment
The concept that multicultural education is a creative environment was demonstrated in the author’s More Creativity game. Furthermore, in the author’s presentation prior to the game, four reflections were derived: 1. multicultural groups can open up to each other so fast; 2. the degree of blending together of different thoughts and views is a product of people’s degree of openness; 3. people belonging to the same culture and background or the mono-culture groups have the tendency not to share their views and thoughts for fear of being judged by their own community members; and 4. a multicultural educational platform can be a great seed for a better and more developed educational system.
Although this essay has been putting emphasis on the concept that multicultural environments are creative environments, it does not necessarily implies that mono-cultural environments are not creative. Mono-cultural environment has its own feature of showing creativity. What this essay is pointing out are the more opportunities for sharing and exchange of creative ideas in a multicultural environment since varied cultures are being represented in the discussions. Meaning, there are more elements such as “values, beliefs, orientations, and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in a society”16 that may be raised in the flow of conversation. A mono-culture environment may still elicit creative environment according to the degree of participation of the persons belonging in the same culture, because after all, differences are not only tied up with differences in cultures but also in differences in individual personalities. But its extent or scope may not be as wide and elaborate if there are more elements that can shape the interaction among people. Mono-cultural environment is sometimes one-way sided and tends to look at things around us only in a certain way. This oftentimes creates an environment that is not holistic and somehow curtails the creativity in people.
To sum up, different cultures mean different ways of looking at things. It means different lenses and perspectives. The blending of various cultures means more creative imagination among learners. With the globalization and new arrangements among countries, multicultural education has become more important and relevant. This phenomenon creates a borderless world where learning is truly ubiquitous and cuts across various cultures. If educators or any other individuals would seek for bigger perspectives, they must venture out from the single lens which a mono-culture environment offers, and face the reality that this world indeed is not mono-cultural but a merger of different cultures. Multi-cultural environment offers a holistic way of looking at things and provides a more realistic picture of the real world.
Therefore, a multicultural educational platform is a great seed for a better and more developed educational system, as it sets the groundwork for the transformation of society.
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C.H. Dodd, (1987) Dynamics of Intercultural Communication in P.L.Tiedt and I.M.Tiedt, Multicultural Teaching: A Handbook of Activities, Information and Resources, 6th ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2002), p.14.
C.E. Sleeter, (1996) in M.S. Hanley. The Scope of Multicultural Education. http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/multicultural/hanley.htm (10 Jan. 2006).
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