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Written on September 1st, 2013 , Arts-in-Ed, Teaching Artistry, The Business of Art Tags: , ,

This week’s blog was going to highlight some techniques for developing curriculum in a new way, for breathing new life and perspective into a regular project. Turns out that will be next week’s blog.

This week, I want to remind you of what I have just been reminded of—that a shift in our physical working space or place manifests in a shift or working thinking and an increased capacity for creative problem solving.

As an arts-in-ed fanatic, I know (thanks to neuro-research) that using arts modalities to teach academic content uses multiple neuro-pathways, creates emotional engagement (which in turn stimulates memory) and is based in interrogative process, rather than passive info-consumption (and so on—you have heard me go on about this before). The amazing Gary Anaka, a leader in the area of brain research and thinking processes (, says that when the body is moving, the brain is engaged, and that changing the environment and methodology frequently stimulates active rather than passive thought. Gary Anaka and I were both keynote speakers at a professional development conference for teachers in British Columbia last week, and he is absolutely fabulous, by the way.

But I still managed to forget how profoundly simply being in a completely different location, having the movement be to a drastically different environment, can alter not only what I am thinking, but how I am thinking. Okay, sure, as an actor, I know I can change my thought process and my point of view about something by going into a different room in my house or by changing my clothes (my ‘costume’, so to speak). This technique works for everyone, by the way, not just actors (although folks with any acting training may respond more deeply).

This week, however, I travelled from my home in the lushly green Finger Lakes region of upstate NY to the Summerland area of the Okanagan Valley in BC—with its sandy cliffs covered in sagebrush, sparsely firred steep hillsides, and low-lying vineyards with their tuscan-esque homes rolling down from a bright sky to the enormous lake below. My brain did a double take.

The sounds are different. The wind is different. The smells, sights, accents, foods, colors, trees, birds, common animals trying to run under your car….all different. SO DELICIOUS. My brain has been devouring it all, like a starving dog at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and my processes (even for stupid things like invoicing) have all joyfully dissembled and turned, like colored glass in a kaleidescope.

Okay, so maybe you can’t create such a dramatic shift for yourself. What you CAN do is undo your pattern. Take a notebook while you walk in a park, let your mind notice the world around you….and jot down the ideas for that thing you’ve been chewing on that come flitting like brand new butterflies into your consciousness. Or work on a rooftop, or at the aquarium—someplace radically different. Eat a completely bizarre food or things that “don’t go together” while you work at a new cafe. Make your students turn the room (or you do it as a surprise) into the inside of a Tuareg tent, or around a campfire, or in a treehouse—’cause if you can’t take the students to a new place literally, even the metaphor or simulation will still create a new, engaging environment.

Now, if only my highly stimulated brain would cool down enough to let me get some sleep!!!


Speaking of new places and a change, I have the honor of going to Afghanistan with the Afghan Friends Network to provide support for educational projects for women and children, do some arts-in-ed, clown in hospitals, and more. Support for this project would be deeply appreciated


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