Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spotlight on ICSC Faculty Member: Dr. Sue Keller-Mathers

by Diane R. Bessel
Assistant Professor, Undergraduate Program Director of Sociology and Social Work
Daemen College

1.     I would like to begin our time together asking you to share a bit of your personal creativity story. Can you share a little bit about your background and how it led you to working in the field of creativity?

Sue went to school at Buffalo State College in the Elementary Education program. When she finished college, there were no teaching jobs available in Buffalo so she moved to New Orleans. She took a course on gifted education at Tulane University. While there, she went to a conference and saw Don Treffinger speak in Baton Rouge. It was her “a-ha moment.” Sue discovered that she liked creativity and couldn’t believe that there was a program that would bring her back Buffalo. She’s been here ever since.

2.     What did your earliest work in creativity look like?

Sue’s earliest work in creativity started with her interest in the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS). She stated that she always knew she would go back and teach. She decided to bring CPS to younger grades including gifted and talented Kindergarten through 5th grade students. Her colleague and mentor, Mary Murdock, was very active in gifted education and introduced Sue to the National Association of Gifted Children. Sue suggests that this group really nurtured the use of creativity in education and has been a helpful network for her.

3.     How do you do creative problem solving with young kids?

Sue states that one can do CPS with kids as young as pre-kindergarten starting with basic creativity skills and tools using hands on items. With fourth graders, you can move into table facilitations.

Sue stated that she started out working on five-day programs for educators and business people with Scott Isaksen, Roger Firestien, and Don Treffinger. She also worked with Kristin Puccio on an early project where they sought to develop a model for teaching CPS to kids. This included 20 hours of training with 1st graders to answer the question - Can you teach young children to solve problems? Sue stated that you would be amazed by a kid’s ability to just “get it.” The work resulted in two books (Big Tools for Young Thinkers- S. Keller-Mathers & K. Puccio and Adventures in Real Problem Solving by K. Puccio, S. Keller-Mathers & D. Treffinger).

Sue indicates that the key to teaching young children CPS is multiple modes of engagement – more visual, symbols, and movement. For example, when doing the Pluses, Potentials, Concerns, Options (PPCO) you use a plus sign and brain drawing (not brain writing). When working with Marie Mance, Sue brought in 4th graders to share their experience with students in Marie Mance’s CRS 304 facilitation class where the 4th graders were able to share their facilitation experiences with the undergraduates.  

Sue worked with some of her youngest children for several years. She has caught up with two of the students -Hassan & Whitney – one is now an independent filmmakers and the other is interested in sustainability issues and has worked with not-for-profits. Several people – including these students - have stated that their early work on creativity was very beneficial for them in terms of their development and even career prospects.

4.     I first got to know you related to your work on female leaders and their creativity. Could you give any updates on those efforts? Any plans for continuing this research?

Sue hasn’t really continued with this work in a few years though she did write an article with Jane Piirto on Mary Meeker (in A Century of Contributions to Gifted Education, Edited by A. Robinson and J. Jolly) and advises graduate students on their work in this area. Sue indicates that she would like to reconnect on these issues some time in the future and that she remains interested in women’s models of creativity.

5.     Are there current projects that you are working on that you are excited about?

Sue states that she has never lost passion for CPS and that she is still doing quite a bit in schools. She also has a deep love for the Torrance Incubation model as it supports creative teaching and learning.

Recently, Sue has done some work using the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) using a pre and post-test design for a school in Pennsylvania. She has not yet published this research.

She is also doing TTCT in Colorado where she interpreted data for the teachers for use with the students. Sue indicated that there is an interview with the Founders of the school on the website with an emphasis on partnership for 21st century skills. The project is taking place in Durango, Colorado at the DAVINCI School of Creativity and Innovation. The school’s leadership decided to give kids more variety and moved to the use of small learning communities (expeditionary learning; international baccalaureate, and DAVINCI which is and arts centered – creativity focused learning community. The developers of the school had done great work on their arts curriculum and it was going very well but they realized that they didn’t have enough grounding in creativity. The group did a fair bit of research and landed on and connected with the Torrance Incubation model approach. Sue recently did her last visit with the group where she debriefed on TTCT and did faculty observations and a workshop.

6. Other work that you would like to share?

In her work with Bright Lights Consulting (with Tony Pagliaroli & Miriam Kelley), there is some work on design thinking within the Buffalo Public Schools developing. Sue also did some consulting with Pennsylvania Department of transportation engineers training them on CPS and its importance in their craft.  She is also preparing to write a new book on creativity teaching for Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade and is in the process of talking to a publisher.

7.     What was most important to you as you were starting out in creative studies?

Sue indicates one of the most important aspects of graduate school in creative studies is an individual’s cohort – the people who you take classes with and got through the program. This group becomes your core network. These are the relationships you count on and you can call if they need something – ask for advice, get support for projects. This includes colleagues locally and the larger creativity community through conferences, etc.  

8.     Advocacy for creative education and funding for creativity research seems very important to you. Can you speak to your efforts to advocate on these issues?

Sue states that she is always advocating, always looking for ways to make needs and resources come together. Most recently, Sue has been trying to help school districts see the integral part creative education can play. This includes educating on what creative education is, what it does strengthening schools, and why it is important. She just finished some survey work in Pennsylvania for a school district and for a superintendent (Mike Ferraro). They wanted to know about creativity: what it is; why it is important; what degrees are linked with creativity; what activities can be accomplished using creativity; key concepts; etc. They had a 98% response rate and nearly 35% of focus group participants indicated that they were extremely interested in what creativity education would look like in their schools and were willing to be part of the start up project. The superintendent really wants to move on this.

9. What are your hopes for the future of the ICSC?

Sue indicates that ICSC is experiencing a boom time with continued growth that strengthens that program’s position on campus and its hold on the field and beyond. Sue is most interested in academic programs with a focus on teaching and learning. The program is contemplating developing a doctoral program. The program needs move through this process carefully as it redefines itself.

Now that Sue has secured tenure and promotion she feels as though she can do more of what she wants to do. She stated that there are fewer women leaders/full professors in higher education. She has experienced her work in higher education as a joyful time and she feels that she has done what she needed to do to progress through the ranks at the college. 

10. Finally, what is your definition of creativity?

Sue shared that she took part in a neat project on creativity where she was asked to use props, symbols, and other representations to describe her definition of creativity. She was photographed by LeeAnne White, one of the program’s students who is a professional photographer.

Sue brought items that represented the essence of her talents and beliefs about creativity. She created this definition: “I believe…..You will find your creative path when you are in rhyme with nature and expressing your authentic self.  The creative spirit can be alive and well in all of us through the everyday ways we interact and the potential for extraordinary thinking and doing.” Sue’s journal, computer, travel pack and dog, Zydeco, all represent balance, nature, discovery, action, interactions, thinking, inspiration and the desire to create.

Below is some additional Information about DAVINCI School of Creativity and Innovation provided by Sue.

DAVINCI School of Creativity and Innovation
“Our administration challenged us with dream up your ideal school” Krista Karpel, DAVINCI Teacher

A student working on a CAD project enthusiastically asked me if I’d like to see his design for the house chosen as the annual charity fundraiser. He led me to the outdoor building site where teachers and students were actively building his design.  The DAVINCI Learning Community encourages the original thinker to be comfortable as someone who feels different, develops students’ areas of passion and teaches creativity deliberately. At DAVINCI, I observed authentic learning, harnessing multiple talents and students feeling comfortable to express themselves.

Conceptualizing a Small Learning Community

“The core of what pushes artistic thinking is creativity”  Krista Karpel

DAVINCI was a grassroots initiative by teachers with a passion for building a unique arts infused school inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative thinking.  Conceptualized using the P21 skills, the teachers searched for research based creativity concepts and skills to support the development of deliberate creativity. This began a partnership that spanned concept development to the implementation of a new school.

The DAVINCI Way of Learning
“The ideas I get from my creativity course in foundations I get to try some of that out in my Math and German class as well so I find that my teaching had become more creative.”
Sabina  Furtauer, DAVINCI Teacher

Students focus on applying creative thinking in all their courses and understanding the basic tenets of visual and performing arts and the use of technology in all fields. DAVINCI learning community for 9th and 10th graders is built on the four Pillars of discover, connect, create and reflect.  In the Foundation courses students in 9th grade focus on the DAVINCI way of learning in Visual Arts, Theater and Creative thinking the first semester and technology, music and engineering/STEM in the second semester. In 10th grade students take Robotics, Digital Arts and Entrepreneurship. In the capstone course, students engage in deliberate creative process to conceptualize, design, build and present their outcomes to a public audience.

Deliberate Creativity
Video Clip:

All these new creativity skills I am trying to weave in to what I am doing. I as a teacher get really excited. The students are producing better work. I knew going through school and teaching school that was always missing”  Roxie Mitchell , DAVINCI Teacher

Although the educators at the school worked hard to set up a creative environment, teach in creative ways and nurture student creativity, they recognized that learning more about the scholarly work in the field of creativity was important. They began to implement the 4 P’s of creativity: Creative Person, Creative Process, Creative Product and Creative Press/Environment

They engaged their students in the development of a set of 18 creativity skills identified by E. Paul Torrance
and taught deliberate divergent and convergent tools.

Supplemental Links:

“What we were really trying to do is create a school which took the best of art, that creativity piece that allowed the students to be successful  and put it into all the core areas and also trying to address what was happening in the world… preparing students to be part of the creative economy.” Roxie Mitchell 

Halfway through their second year, they are well on their way to doing this successfully.

About Dr. Sue Keller-Mathers

A former classroom and talent development teacher, Susan Keller-Mathers is an Associate Professor of Creativity at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. She teaches in the Master of Science degree program in Creativity and works with educators, businesses and non-for-profits to bring more deliberate creativity into the professions with Bright Lights Innovations. Dr. Keller-Mathers can be reached at

About Diane R. Bessel

Diane R. Bessel, PhD, LMSW, CNM is a student in the Creativity and Change Leadership Certificate Program. She recently joined the faculty at Daemen College as Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director of the Sociology and Social Work Department. Prior to joining Daemen College, she served as the Director of Research, Investments, and Advocacy at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County where she was responsible for regularly assessing community trends for the purposes of coordinated planning and decision-making. Bessel uses the skills she has acquired through the ICSC program in her consulting work with non-profit organizations, government groups, collaborative initiatives, and foundations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

World Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW) Part II: What might be all the ways to celebrate creativity this month?

By Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti
Associate Professor and Graduate Assistant

Last week we let you know how to celebrate creativity with the children in your life. But we know how difficult in can be to acquire a child if you don’t have any of your own, so we decided to compile a list of twenty-one things you can do to celebrate WCIW – no children required!

As you know, WCIW is a global celebration of our natural ability to create. It is about “celebrating our ability to get new ideas, use imagination, and make new decisions to make the world a better place, and to make your place in the world better too.” So let’s get creating!

  1.    Jump on public speaking opportunities.
  2.    Write a familiar story in a fantasy setting.
  3.    Re-write the lyrics to a favorite song to describe an important aspect of your life.
  4.    Order business cards that don’t have to do with your job. You can be an “Awesomness Consultant” or an “Optimist Extraordinaire.” Hand them out to people who will appreciate them!
  5.    Cook something you’ve never cooked before, or try a familiar dish with different spices.
  6.    Keep an observation notebook.
  7.    Sit and do nothing. See what comes of it!
  8.    Feeling stressed? Have a 30 second dance party. (Singing is encouraged!)
  9.    In one day, try to make as many relevant puns as possible. Keep a tally – then try to best your total next month!
  10.  Go to an art store and buy three tubes of paint: black, white, and a color of your choosing. See how many monochrome paintings you can create.
  11.  Write down your ideas – no matter how wacky they seem!
  12.  Go somewhere new.
  13.  Read a biography of a creative person: Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, etc. What do you have in common with the person you read about?
  14.  Start a collection.
  15.  Look at a world map. How many countries have you visited? Which ones would you like to visit? Make a list – and don’t hold back!
  16.  Write a children’s book.
  17.  Listen to your favorite song and create a work of art – a poem, a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, etc. – depicting how the song makes you feel.
  18.  Turn on a bad television show and choose a character – then mute the TV. Every time your character speaks, you have to supply the lines!
  19.  Ask “What if” questions.
  20.  Accomplish something every day, and write it down. After a month, review what you’ve accomplished and know that you can do anything if you take it one day at a time!
  21.  Turn off your cell phone, iPod, and other electronics and enjoy nature!

Remember, WCIW is about celebrating our own creativity. Use this week to highlight your creative ability, and continue to create even when the week is through!

If you have any more ideas you would like to share, please post them in the comments section below.

Check out the following website for more creative ideas to try at home, in education, or at work! And don't forget to share what you did with the world!

Monday, April 14, 2014

ZENventures: Unwind Your Imagination

By Darlene Kent
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Want to go on a Zenventure? Have I captured your attention?  Are you curious? Join me as I share my Master’s project with you.

What are Zenventures?

Zenventures are guided imageries, meditations that are designed to be mini adventures.

Adventures of peace, adventures of the heart, and adventures of the mind.  Zenventures are about taking a journey, about taking a moment to pause, to unplug and just be.  Be you, be relaxed, and be in the now.  Everybody needs a coffee break, even your brain.  Zenventures is all about the art of the pause.

Zenventures take you to a place you may never have been before, it allows you to try out new options.  They help you get comfortable with new skills and new ideas.  Zenventures are about opening your creativity and your mind to possibilities.  Zenventures give you a way to release and connect to your imagination, and to experience some peace.

Relax and discover your creative potential to embrace imagination, insight and your artistic self - whatever your art may be.

Discover SIM:  Story, Incubation, Music

We live in a busy world, a world that seems to have forgotten how to breathe, how to pause, and how to unplug from an everyday, all day, internet access.  Discover SIM:  unplug by plugging in. You may be wondering what is SIM?  And why should I care?  SIM is an acronym that taps into three powers to help you discover imagination, creativity and insight:
    Power of Story
    Power of Incubation
    Power of Music

Humans have an affinity for story, we respond to them, remember them, and share them.  Zenventures tap into your desire for stories and uses it as a vehicle to help you connect to your inner potential.

I believe in our busy and increasingly interconnected world we are forgetting how to incubate. Guided meditations help people find time to pause, and give ourselves permission and time to let the answer find us. Zenventures help you tap into this deep well of potential, one that is often overlooked.

Humans experience music on a different level, beyond words, beyond logic, beyond the everyday.  Hear some music and some part of your body wants to move with it.  In Zenventures we use music to move the mind, the heart and the soul.

The book, Wired for Story, discussed how story can help rewire a person’s brain, to help us to see the possibilities of the future, and to teach us the way of the world (Cron, 2012).  Human beings connect to story in a strong way, and I used the power of story to take the person on a journey.  One very clear way I did that was by using a theme in the meditations, and I connected that to something that happens in music lyrics - a chorus.  Theme is the universal message that you want to share, it tells people the point of the story, and conveys information about the human experience (Cron, 2012), in this case the creative aspect of being human.

The best way to make people believe in something is with repetition, and another way is to use simple language (Kahneman, 2011).  I employed both of these strategies while writing and creating the guided meditations.  So the chorus, repeated a few times during the meditation; is the key attitude, skill or trait about creativity I want the person to take on.  The power of SIM (Story, Incubation, Music) lies with the repeated chorus, and the breeding of familiarity that comes with listening to it, especially with doing the same meditation over and over again.  The chorus is my secret weapon, it is how I plant the seeds of creativity that will hopefully blossom into helping a person become more creative.


Research has clearly proven that there is a mind body connection and that mediation has several benefits:  quicker recovery from stress, increased alpha rhythms, enhanced synchronization, muscle relaxation, less emotional reactivity, increased empathy, more happiness,  increased creativity, and heightened perceptual clarity and sensitivity (Bodian, 2006). 

When I was doing the initial research for the project, I checked and, and I found that most guided meditations refer to creativity in general.  Current guided meditation do not focus on the skills, attitudes and traits associated with creativity. 

A journal article written by Sawyer (2011) on the neuroscience of creativity suggested that creative people experience higher levels of alpha wave activity, and that creative people use both hemispheres of the brain.  You can connect that information to the benefits of meditation [increased alpha rhythms and increased brain synchronization, (Bodian, 2006)] to see how meditating increases creativity in general.

What appears to be lacking in the current guided meditation landscape are the skills, traits and attitudes that support creativity.  I decided to use meditation, guided imagery and visualization as a way to help people practice and master the skills, traits and attitudes associated with creativity. 

The best journal article I read on creativity and meditation was called, The Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation (Horan, 2009). The section labeled, Insight, provided a good overview on creativity and meditation.  What research indicated is that meditation helps with incubation and insight through the processes of transcendence and integration. 

Transcendence bypasses limits in information, in essence you could say it creates a whole that is greater than the sum of the knowledge.  And integration is about transforming information, you can think of it as an enlightened state.  Transcendence is about diverging, and integration is about converging.  After reading this article I came to the conclusion that transcendence and integration are part of the yin/yang of creativity.

Be Rock Star Zen

It is too early to tell if the guided meditations can increase the prevalence of the specific traits, skills and attitudes associated with creativity.  Even if they do not, meditation will still help enhance creativity in general. 

So, let’s jump in and go on a Zenventure.  Enjoy the streaming audio below and discover a peace and creativity adventure today!

For more Zenventures please visit  or

To read the entire Master’s Project paper go to Digital Commons at

For more about me, Darlene Kent, reach out and connect at


Bodian, S. (2006). Meditation for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story:  The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Horan, R. (2009). The neuropsychological connection between creativity and meditation. Creativity Research Journal, 21(2-3), 199–222. doi:10.1080/10400410902858691

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sawyer, K. (2011). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity: A Critical Review. Creativity Research Journal, 23(2), 137–154. doi:10.1080/10400419.2011.571191

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 15th-April 21st is World Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW)!!! What might be all the ways to celebrate creativity with your children this month?

By Dr. Cyndi Burnett
Associate Professor

WCIW is a global celebration of our natural ability to create. It is about “celebrating our ability to get new ideas, use imagination, and make new decisions to make the world a better place, and to make your place in the world better too.” The wonderful thing about WCIW is that you can celebrate your creativity anywhere.

To jumpstart your creativity, I wanted to provide you with twenty-one things you can do this month to celebrate creativity with the children in your life. Many of these ideas are taken from a book I am currently co-developing with Michaelene Dawson. The book is called, “My Sandwich is a Spaceship: Creative Thinking for Parents and Kids.”

1.              Teach your children your favorite childhood game. If it is a board game, go online and see if you can find it, and treat your family!
2.              Create a curiosity tree or corner in your house where you can post all of you and your children’s questions (post-its work great!). Talk about the questions over meals.
3.              Take a day to mindfully play with your children. Turn off TVs, cell phones, and computers, pack a picnic and go to a small park. Get lost in the park, daydream, and spend time being totally present. Notice new things around you in the park.
4.              Eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Completing tasks out of sequence has demonstrated higher levels of creative thinking. Let your children pick the meals.
5.              Get a big professional canvas (Michael’s or Joanne Fabrics has many sizes), put on your painting clothes (make sure you have a spare set of clothes and washcloths on hand), pick up some finger paint, and together using all body parts, paint a “masterpiece”. Once complete and cleaned up, talk to your child about how they felt, what colors they used, and what your picture looks like. Most important, find some place in your house to showcase your work of art.
6.              Engage in fantasy games with your child. My son loves to make up games. His current favorites are called Carzoom, Dropsidy Whapsidy, and Train Around. Don’t be afraid to engage with the imagination and create your own games!
7.              Try a completely new meal together as a family.
8.              Together, come up with as many ideas for a Saturday morning as you possibly can think of while delaying your judgment (so try not to put down any of the ideas). Then, plan and execute a Saturday morning adventure (breakfast at the local diner, swinging in the local park, followed by launching their favorite stuffed animal into outer space – or as far as they can get it…).
9.              Pick a room in your house to rearrange; sit in different chairs, and notice how the view has changed.
10.           Plant a small tree (it is also earth day this month) in your backyard and take a picture of it. Then, make a family pact to take photos each season.
11.           Come up with different ends to your favorite bedtime story. (In the great green room, there was a telephone and blue baboon and a picture of grandma jumping over the moon…).
12.           Pick up some kabob sticks at your local store, and put your children’s favorite foods on the stick. Then, add in some new foods and see if they will try it.
13.           When faced with a parenting problem, try to look at it in another way. For example, when my son wouldn’t eat cheese, I gave him “sprinkle cheese” and he was eating it by the handfuls. What is something else you can try?
14.           Find a color wheel on the internet. Go grocery shopping, and try to find food from the color wheel.
15.           Create a song from one of your favorite tunes. For example, imagine singing “cookie cookie, chocolate milk” as the title to the song to “Twinkle Twinkle little star”.
16.           Think about your favorite soundtrack as a child. Mine was Disco Mickey Mouse. Download it from iTunes and dance with your children.
17.           Together, think about all the things that can be created with water. Then, try to do something new with water (maybe create a river in the bathtub where the toy dinosaurs can live).
18.           Go through your closet and get rid of things you haven’t worn in the last year. Then, use those clothes as dress up clothes. Remember your old skirt could be your child’s superhero cape.
19.           Have a “silly” talent show, where each member of your family showcases a silly talent (holding a spoon on your nose, singing the abcs in a gibberish language).
20.           Before you throw anything in the garbage, think of another use for it with your children. Perhaps the baby food jars could act as spice holders or your cereal box could be the head of a robot you build!
21.           Think about something you used to love to do as a child and try it with your children. One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting in the Burger King parking lot with my mom, eating french fries in the car and talking about anything. Being the youngest of five, I was so grateful to have time alone to talk to her. Think about what you might do this week (and beyond!) to build creative memories with your children! And don't forget to take photos!

If you have any more ideas you would like to share, please post them in the comments section below.

Check out the following website for more creative ideas to try at home, in education, or at work! And don't forget to share what you did with the world!

***Photo courtesy of Rebecca Murak at Elmwood Franklin School