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all kinds of different kinds of things,” Marcus says.

Feed the Brain Carter says creativity flourishes when kids are in the right state of mind. There are two relevant brain states, she explains: “pause and plan” and “fight or flight.” In the former state, the body sends nutrients to the prefrontal cortex, where creativity is housed. In the latter state, nutrients go to other parts of the brain and cre- ativity gives way to instinctual action. “That doesn’t mean you need

to be in an aggressive, adrenaline- pumped state for this to happen; that’s a misconception,” Carter says. “Low-level stress is going to send little alarms to the brain to conserve energy and to put that energy in the muscles — or at least not put it in the prefrontal cortex.”

Reducing stress, then, is an

obvious way to boost creativity. One way to do that is to reduce the pressure to perform and achieve, something kids face all too much these days. “I think it’s really impor- tant to create a performance-free zone for kids,” she says. Too often, adults ask questions,

such as, “Did you get the trophy?” and “How are your test scores?” instead of asking, “What did you learn from your mistakes?” “[Kids] see mistakes as something

to be ashamed of,” she says. “They don’t have any understanding that the elite performers in our society in every field — whether it’s the arts or sports or academics, you name it — all have a positive orientation toward mistake-making and failure.” A second way to reduce stress,

Carter says, is to warm up gradually,

much like an athlete stretches before a game. In a group setting, for example, she recommends having playful warm-up activities rather than simply getting right down to business. “If you’ve got one hour, I would spend 20 minutes on the setup,” she says. Finally, Carter says it’s important

to feed the brain — literally. The prefrontal cortex is very glucose intensive, so a glass of lemonade can help get the creative juices flowing. Of course, some kids might prefer

a piece of fruit or a granola bar or a box of raisins, which takes us back to Marcus’ point about going with the grain. Many schools still think kids are “all little cups to fill up with information and that they’re all just alike,” she says. “We know that’s not true, and we know that it is crucial to their learning to look from a differ- ent viewpoint.” ¿


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