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Creativity in schools essential to preparing young people for future uncertainty and change

New research released today by the Australia Council for the Arts provides powerful evidence for the wide-reaching benefits of creativity in education.

Cultivating Creativity: A study of the Sydney Opera House’s Creative Leadership in Learning Program shows creative learning approaches help build confidence, improve academic engagement and prepare young people for future disruption and change. It also transforms teaching staff and the school community.

The report reveals that applying creativity has the potential to holistically impact children – academically, socially and emotionally – and enhance learning across a range of academic subjects. Conducted over two years, the joint research partnership between the Australia Council and the Opera House examined the impact of the Creative Leadership in Learning (CLIL) program, an innovative Opera House program that works with schools to embed creativity in approaches to teaching and learning.

The research shows how creative approaches positively impact school culture, enhance the sense of community and help students to thrive in uncertain times. It demonstrates that applying creativity in education can dramatically increase student engagement, equipping both students and the teaching community with the skills and capabilities to meet difference, difficulty and the previously unimaginable with confidence.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher said, “I commend the Australia Council and the Sydney Opera House on partnering to deliver this report, which offers valuable insights into the crucial role of arts and creativity in equipping our young people with the resilience and confidence they will need for the future”.

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette AM said, “This important research further reinforces what we know – that arts and creativity have the power to transform us, and certainly in education. Cultivating Creativity is an optimistic, exciting and useful document that will help educators and cultural organisations adapt for the 21st century.”

NSW Minister for the Arts, The Hon. Don Harwin said, “Cultivating Creativity demonstrates that the Opera House’s innovative program Creative Leadership in Learning is immensely valuable to the NSW community. Supporting schools and students to teach and learn through creativity helps build vital relationships and fosters resilience and imaginative thinking, which is so important in this unprecedented year. I applaud the Sydney Opera House and the Australia Council for the Arts on their collaboration that has reminded us all of the power of creativity in shaping our young people’s futures.”

The report identifies new areas of professional and creative engagement for artists and their work, and points to new and vital areas of outreach and learning activity for cultural organisations.

Sydney Opera House Director of Programming Fiona Winning said, “Over the past 4 years, the Opera House’s Creative Leadership in Learning program has opened the Opera House to a new generation of audiences and artists. As demonstrated through the Cultivating Creativity report, the program has far-reaching positive impacts within the school ecosystem, embedding a culture of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking – the very skills that are essential for the next generation to navigate and thrive in an uncertain future.”

Key findings:

  • The Creative Leadership in Learning program is having extremely positive impacts – on teachers, students, families and on the culture of participating schools.
  • Students are experiencing increased engagement with the curriculum, and elevated excitement for learning. Engaging with creativity at school has encouraged students to take risks, share their thoughts, and try new ideas.
  • For teachers, the program has increased engagement with their teaching practice, enlivening the curriculum and leading to new flexible experiences with students. Through participation in CLIL’s ‘teacher professional learning’, teachers have enjoyed increased support, collaboration and trust between colleagues, resulting in improved health and wellbeing.
  • Principals and teachers spoke about how applying creativity has the potential to impact the whole child – academically, socially and emotionally.
  • CLIL has led to increased parent engagement with both their children’s schoolwork and with the school more broadly, enhancing a shared sense of community.
  • Within schools, CLIL has changed the meaning of creativity and its significant potential for learning across a range of academic subjects, not only those typically associated with the arts. The program is enabling schools to spark a conversation with families, students and other educators about the value of creativity in building new skills such as resilience and adaptability, which will be valued in a new, complex world of work.
  • For participating artists, CLIL has expanded the horizon and stimuli for creative practice. Artists have experienced new contexts for collaboration, and even new concepts of what artistic collaboration might mean. For many artists, CLIL has also provided a new professional context for their practice, and an important new source of income.
  • CLIL has also promoted a new relationship between schools and the Opera House – one that is based on collaboration and a connection that lasts over time. For many who might not have previously attended a performance at the Opera House, CLIL has cultivated a feeling of belonging and connection with this icon of Sydney cultural life.

Students participate in a room installed by artist Michelle Robin Anderson at the LBHS Takeover (credit Ken Leanfore)

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YouTube maths hero Eddie Woo explains the maths of the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House today launched a new video series, Maths of the Sydney Opera House, developed in collaboration with Eddie Woo, award-winning maths teacher and star of the popular YouTube channel Wootube.

The four-part series unveils the innate creativity of maths by using the construction of the Opera House and design solutions of its architect Jørn Utzon to teach mathematical concepts including geometry, acoustics and tessellation.

“I’m delighted that the digital team have collaborated with Eddie Woo on this project to capture the imagination of our youngest audiences and to show there’s a home for creativity in every part of the building,” Sydney Opera House Head of Children, Families and Creative Learning Tamara Harrison says.

“With a new centre for creativity now under construction and due to open next year, we’re looking forward to exploring more ways we can explore learning connections between creativity, maths, science, technology and engineering through the lens of the amazing Sydney Opera House building.”

The episodes, approximately five minutes in length, are accompanied by worksheets for students in years 5-10 and explain the science behind the Opera House’s construction through an educational lens. Designed to deepen students’ understanding of how art and creativity intersect with all disciplines of STEM, each episode also features guests who have consulted on the design of the building and even worked directly with Utzon himself.

“The Sydney Opera House is a modern example of how profound mathematical concepts lie beneath the most aesthetic experiences we have in the real world. I’m delighted to be working with the Opera House to help the next generation of our community to see and appreciate this building with fresh eyes, as well as find surprising ways to be creative with maths,” Eddie Woo says.

With over 1 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, Eddie Woo has revolutionised the way that maths can be taught with his accessible and engaging approach to teaching. Currently Leader for Mathematics Growth in the NSW Department of Education, Woo collaborates with other educators to engage and inspire students across the state. He has also published a number of books on maths and science and appears on ABC ME as the host of Teenage Boss.

Maths of the Sydney Opera House features four episodes:

  • Acoustics – Mathematics to Make Your Ears Ring, released Wednesday 14 October, deconstructs the science of acoustics and sound and features Mitchell Allen, Acoustics Lead from engineering firm Arup, whose founder worked directly with Utzon on the structure of the Opera House.
  • The Purity of Geometry, to be released Wednesday 21 October, describes how geometry and Utzon’s ‘Spherical Solution’ resolved the construction dilemma that the arched sails posed. Peter Mould, former NSW Government Architect, explains how maths was a key component in enabling the unique design of the House.
  • Calculating an Impossible Number, to be released Wednesday 28 October, investigates how maths was used to calculate the exterior tiling of the sails and features Ken Kobayashi, a BIM Integration Specialist who has digitally reconstructed the Sydney Opera House using modern computer technology.
  • Nature Inspiring Design, released Wednesday 4 November, delves into how Utzon took inspiration from elements in the natural environment. The episode features Richard Johnson, an architect who worked directly with Utzon to ensure the Sydney Opera House could reflect its harbourside location.

Maths of the Sydney Opera House is part of the Opera House’s Digital Creative Learning program, which provides free, accessible learning opportunities for school students year-round.

The first episode is available now, with new episodes to be released each Wednesday.

For more information, click HERE.