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Dr. Christopher Emdin on redefining education: The necessity of creativity and play

By Sweta Babladi, March 1 2024—

Dr. Christopher Emdin, a celebrated author and leading arts educator, held a keynote address on Feb. 16 at the Arts Commons as part of the Calgary City Teachers Convention. The speech addressed what it means to reimagine education and teaching philosophies in order to nurture creativity and problem-solving abilities in young people.

Emdin currently serves as the Maxine Green Chair for distinguished contributors to education at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University and is the director of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship at the Idea Lab at Skidmore College. Throughout his career, he has combined his passion for the sciences with his love of the arts.

Through this keynote address, he hopes that individuals with similar ideas of educational reform, especially teachers in Calgary, will be inspired to begin implementing change within their own classrooms. 

Emdin believes that many education systems, especially post-pandemic, are not structured in a way that fosters creativity and well-roundedness in students. Additionally, educators are not recognized for their ability to shape young lives in a way that stays with them throughout their lives. 

“How can we want a new generation that is whole and well when those who are charged to guide them are viewed as less than and not paid well, treated as though they are disposable?” Emdin said. 

According to Emdin, training teachers to bring more focus to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) is crucial to transforming what classrooms look like. 

“We have a world where people will separate the arts and the sciences, [saying] you’re either an artist or you’re a science and math person. And for each of us to be our best selves, we are both. We should teach young people from early on that they can be both and they don’t have to choose,” Emdin said. 

While the effects of large-scale changes in education take time to be seen, Emdin believes that each individual educator has the ability to take small steps in their own environment to foster creativity and the courage to think differently in their own students. 

“People know what is not working. They are just so acclimated to doing the same thing that they do not interrupt. So the first step is to self-assess. I am going to tell these teachers today that there are two important things that are important to change in education: community and creativity. Make meaning of what children are saying,” Emdin said. 

The ultimate goal of his keynote speech is to highlight that there are possibilities for change everywhere if the individuals with the power to do so are willing to take the opportunity to create change. 

More information about Emdin and his works can be found on his website

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