The Festival of Lights
November 27th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

TMA Lighthouses, a set on Flickr.

My daughters and I built a lighthouse for The Maritime Aquarium’s Festival of Lights. It is amazing to see the talents of the local artists. The lights are on display until mid January. If you go, vote for #15!  Feel free to click on the link above to view the set and see the full pictures!

Now to some thoughts on education, creativity, and expertise .  .  .

I’ve heard of the lighthouse competition before, and thought it might be an exciting project for my daughters and I to participate.  We love the water and lighthouses and the kids have been to the aquarium. (One of the perks of the contest was a year-long membership to the aquarium.) There were several pictures of “past winners” both on the aquarium’s website and in the promotional flyer.   We elected to build one of our favorites: the Black Rock Lighthouse on Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport.  I decided we would do a scale model and we were pretty precise with measurements, angles, colors, dimensions, and the lot.  It was a challenge to decide what materials to use, how to best represent the light, and how to incorporate all of the subtle details.  We did make a few minor changes, mainly to the top portion of the light due to our inability to make certain objects with the confines of the materials we used.  Nonetheless, if you look at a picture and look at our model, it looks extremely similar. Our model is clean, representative, and majestic.

What I learned, from looking at the other models, is that ours doesn’t really tell a story.  Some of the other lights have an underlying story in their model – a scene, an imaginary sense of wonder, a connection to the viewer.  I can make a connection to those lights on an emotional level – I am drawn in to explore the story and examine its details.  This speaks to the idea of creativity and expertise.  With experience, levels of expertise develop more, and, in turn, increase the creative potential of the artist (or insert other domain here). My children and I have already begun brainstorming ideas for “next year.”  No doubt, our experience building our own model coupled with opportunities  to view other high quality work has inspired us, but also provided us with relevant background knowledge that will make us better producers on the next go-around.

We can’t underestimate the importance of giving students opportunities to produce – whether it be writing, science, music, or whatever . . . When they are producers, they increase their creative potential because they add to their experience and that expertise makes their work more innovative, higher quality, and more imaginative.

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