Creativity Festival draws hundreds of students
Roughly 500 middle school students from across northwestern Minnesota let their creativity run wild at the 2011 Creativity Festival Thursday at Bemidji State University.
From storytelling to inventing gismos, the one-day festival centered on the arts, sciences, invention and problem-solving. Thirteen sessions were offered to students, including creative writing, book-making, guitar technology, cartoon drawing and polar adventuring, among others.
Mary Morton, student academic coordinator with the Northwest Service Cooperative, a regional service agency which coordinates the annual festival, said the event caters to students in NSC Regions 1 and 2.
"It's for kids in grades 5-8," Morton said. "(Thursday) we had 20-30 schools show up. We even had kids come all the way from the Hallock (Minn.) area."
The cooperative also coordinates the Young Authors Conference in Thief River Falls in May, as well as knowledge bowl, spelling bee and freshwater art society competitions throughout the year at schools across northwestern Minnesota.
Bemidji Middle School sent 80 students to the Creativity Festival this year. Principal Drew Hildenbrand said the festival helps students improve their inquiry skills.
"The Festival develops higher order thinking skills in kids to make subjects like math and science come alive," Hildenbrand said. "How do you get kids excited about plain math problems or some big theory in science unless they see it right there in front for themselves?"
It was Travis Whitting's first year chaperoning at the Creativity festival. He is a fifth-grade teacher at Cass Lake-Bena Elementary School.
"I think it's pretty cool," Whitting said of the Festival. "I think it's a good opportunity for kids to check out the different things, especially in the technology and sciences areas."
In the River Watches II session, Tony Skauge, education specialist with the Science Museum of Minnesota, turned on a river model, with running water. As water ran downhill through a plastic corridor, it passed by scale models of a farm, city and forest.
"Students go through and test the pH (acidity levels) and nitrogen levels to find out the acidity of water at each of the sites," Skauge said.
Students in one session learned the city parking lot had the worse pH readings of the three locations.
"We talk about creative ways to reduce pollution," he said. "We try to get them to think beyond reduce, reduce and recycle. The kids come from a variety of homes and settings, some are farmers and some live in urban settings. You get a good representation of different ways of reducing pollution."
On the other side of the building, Christopher Yaeger, a dance specialist from Minneapolis, had students dancing to a variety of music.
Yaeger said he does not seem to have trouble getting students of the younger generation to dance, but has found they are not as familiar with partner dances.
"I want them to dance with each other because most of what we do in the U.S. is just improvisational," he said. "I want them to be aware it's a social skill as well as a musical skill."
Yaeger said his session, "Dance, Dance, Dance" is an important part of the Creativity Festival because "dance is an important art form."
"It addresses a population of kids who are always yelled at for not being still," he said. "Dance speaks to them. It gives them a chance to use that energy in a creative way. I try to steer that energy in a positive way."
In Hagg-Sauer Hall, students in Jef Pokorney's "The Art of Invention" class were busy learning how to be inventors.
Chelsey Peters, an eighth-grader from Goodridge Junior High School, was building a scale model of automatic ear-cleaning piece out of tin foil and odd-shaped plastic pieces.
Nearby, Edgar Morey, a sixth-grader from Bagley Junior High School, had found all the pieces needed to make a handheld fan come to life, after connecting some wires to a battery.
"I explained to the students the invention process has to come from the imagination," Pakorney said. "The invention process goes from imagination to reality. The creativity is there because kids can be their own engineers and make their own decisions on making their own products. They have an idea and then they create the product."
Pakorney said some of the memorable inventions he saw throughout the day were a portable tennis court, a flying pencil holder and handheld lights and fans.