A child’s creativity can challenge us

Has this ever happened in your classroom: A child artwork is so radically different from the norm, yet so entirely appropriate, that it challenges the assumptions on which the original art assignment was based? Elliot Eisner once referred to this type of creative behavior as “Boundary Breaking” in his Typology of Creativity in the Visual Arts (1962), which also included “Boundary Pushing” (i.e., extending upon the uses of a tool or usual limits of a problem); Inventing (combining things together in a new way); and Aesthetic Organizing (creating order and harmony from chaos).

Of the four types of creative behavior, “boundary breaking” occurs much less frequently than the other types. If we consider the “boundary breaking” theories and work of Copernicus, Einstein, Binet, and Picasso, we understand how the difficulty is exercising this type of creativity may account for its rarity.

But, what happens when a child exhibits this type of “outside the box” thinking in school? Hopefully, the artroom is a place where “boundary breaking” is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!