Sunday, April 25, 2010


Where has imagination gone? It is surely on the endangered list.

Remember when, as a child, you would play for hours on end in the front or back yard, using little more than imagination, and perhaps an old spoon from the pantry?  

My father used to stack hay bales together to build me a clubhouse.  Inside my cave of straw, I could pretend that I was hiding from outlaws, or that my prison was a castle turret.  Close by, in our small woods, I kept company with the likes of Robin Hood, faeries, and the creatures from Jungle book, or pirates from Treasure Island (yes, I was an only child).  

Our property had once been a drive-in cinema, which held such promise for an imaginative child.  The overgrowth of bramble, the trees with bowing limbs, the dark crevices of the cistern shed, all were portals for adventures. These were the beginning of great tales.

I have seen people who had a difficult time with classic tales because the characters were fantastic (face it, beavers do not talk in real life, and rabbits do not wear vests).  Thus, such people cannot enjoy the Tales of Narnia, or Alice in Wonderland, or anything that exists “outside of the box” .   Why I know students who cannot entertain themselves if they do not have a visual aid (television or videogame) in their hands.  They will not read. They cannot daydream. They cannot make up stories.

I did a show recently where I needed mermaids.  The local store had mermaid tales that were tailored and all the same color.  My life probably would have been easier if I could have used them~alas, I could not.  They were too much like cookie cutter costumes.  Instead, I used sequined scraps, and the flouncy skirts from old dance costumes to make billowy fishtails for four mer-princesses.  Each mermaid was unique...and beautiful, and proud.

Encourage children to use imagination and ingenuity.  I once had students make 3o-demensional books with their favorite story scenes coming out of the book.  Some of them were wonderful~ribbon spools became clock faces, birdhouse charms became flying houses, cotton became clouds. One student, however, spent money instead of time, going to the craft store to buy a pre-made book, a wooden pre-cut pig, and a plastic spider.   

Not one item in the project was made by hand; the text had been copied from a printer; and the margins were perfectly set.

Comparatively, another child, had a hot air balloon she had made from a real balloon, glue,and tissue paper, had built a house of foil and ribbon, and had used an old worn and discarded paperback novel, painted and bound for the base. 

Without imagination, scientists would never have found subatomic particles, or a cure for smallpox.  The Eiffel tower would not be a landmark, and a mouse would not be an ambassador for children everywhere.  Without imagination, the telephone would not have been invented, and we would not be able to view the ponderences of people sitting halfway round the world.

What will we do as a society, when imagination becomes extinct?