From the Desk of Mrs. Cranert:
Monticello Preparatory School: A Cradle of Creativity
by Rebecca Cranert
In her latest book, The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius, Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen, who, in 2000, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Clinton and served as editor in chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry for twelve years, explores the “cradles of creativity” that produced creative geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Mozart. In the intro to her book she reflects, “…how many [have] been given the creative nature—but were unable to realize their gifts for lack of nurture? We cannot afford to waste human gifts. We need to learn to nurture the creative nature.” Monticello Preparatory School is committed to providing a nurturing learning environment that supports and encourages the development of creativity, originality and multiple intelligences. We believe our adherence to Dr. Adreasen’s theories has resulted in the very high achievement levels, creativity and confidence of our students.
Dr. Andreasen suggests several “circumstances that must be present to produce a cultural environment that nurtures creativity.”
Emphasize Diversity of Intellect: Dr. Andreasen states that it is good for students “to learn about multiple and diverse topics.” She points out that many creative people are talented and gifted in several areas. For instance, Leonardo excelled as an artist, but also as an engineer, an inventor, a scientist and a student of anatomy. Michelangelo, besides being an artist, was a poet, an engineer and an architect. Thomas Jefferson was a great writer, a statesman, an architect, a scientist, a musician and a horseman. In her research, Dr. Andreasen determined that the study of diverse subject matter actually enhanced brain growth and encouraged creativity. She repeatedly emphasizes that the arts and sciences are equally creative. Monticello’s Core Knowledge Sequence ™ Curriculum, is renowned for providing students with a truly, well rounded, broad, rich and deep learning experience that encourages creativity in multiple areas of intelligence. The Core Knowledge Curriculum along with the emphasis upon The Arts, Science and Technology, provided at Monticello ensure the truly creative learning experience that Dr. Andreasen describes.
Freedom, Novelty and a Sense of Being at the Edge: The author believes that an “environment of intellectual richness and freedom is the ideal one in which to create the creative brain.” She further explains,” Until the Renaissance, artists simply copied… their masters, philosophers elaborated on…texts”. The sprit of the Renaissance is the spirit of breaking out of the old,…doing what people had not yet done…” Monticello implements cutting edge research based instructional methods such as the flexible grouping of students, wherein grouping is based on achievement level rather than simply age, which has proven to be extremely successful. Our “Study Hall” has received accolades from parents and educators alike. At this very moment, William Habermehl, Superintendent of the Orange County Unified School District, is calling for the implementation of a program such as ours for their schools. He believes the lengthened school day is necessary for American students to be globally competitive with countries such as Japan, China and Korea.
A Critical Mass of Creative People: “Put simply, creative people are likely to be more productive and more original if surrounded by other creative people.” Dr. Andreasen explains. Each faculty member at Monticello exudes a passion for teaching students about new and exciting subject matter. Students and faculty alike at Monticello enjoy the excitement of experiencing a true love of creative learning. Arts and Sciences are taught across the curriculum enhancing creativity. Students learn to view the world and to think in a new light.
Throughout the year at Monticello, Science, Math and Technology are highlighted by ongoing projects and an annual Science Fair. Science lab experiments are performed regularly in Science classes. Numerous Field Trips to exciting locations such as JPL, Edwards Air Force Base (NASA), The Ocean Institute, and Griffith Observatory, further support and add relevance to Science, Math and Technology classes. All students at Monticello have access to laptops in their classrooms, integrating computer use into all subjects and all classes throughout the day. Students learn key-boarding, Power Point, Word, Excel, internet research techniques, and more. Currently upper level students are learning to write a 4th generation programming language developed at MIT.
Art, Music, Writing, and Theater are taught regularly as classes throughout the year by credentialed Professional Experts at Monticello. Students learn the “theory” behind all these art forms in order to be able to understand and creatively, intelligently “think” about how these art forms impact their lives and our culture so that they can become truly creative, inventive individuals. Monticello students are given the opportunity to work alongside real pros in a very professional learning environment. Students are also regularly attend professional concerts and performances. For instance, students take trips to the Hollywood Bowl, The Glendale Center Theater and C.O.C’s Performing Arts Center to see full professional concerts and theatrical productions. A day visiting the Getty Villa or The Huntington Library further inspires student understanding of various art forms. Project Based learning is exemplified by Monticello’s Youth Shakespeare Festival that includes live stage performances by students and professionals.
A Competitive Atmosphere That is Free and Fair: “The existence of some structure is actually a resource that enhances creativity,” suggests the author. In other words, the rules that are inherent in any competitive situation encourage greater creativity. Creative, new methods of instruction are implemented alongside tried and true, historically proven instructional methods at Monticello. Additionally, students and faculty encourage one another to strive for their personal best in all of their endeavors. The competitive nature of the Science Fair amd the Shakespeare Festival both encourage the development of greater creativity.
Mentors and Patrons: “…creative people are helped by direct nurturance and support…Mentoring itself is an art…it requires teaching and training—providing structure…just as specific art forms and set pieces provide structure,” claims Dr. Andreasen. The 10:1 student teacher ratio, small class size, as well as educator specialists who are trained in methodology that supports teaching to multiple intelligences, found at Monticello encourage the close Mentor/Patron relationships that Dr. Andreasen describes.