Study emphasizes arts, crafts, rather than testing, explains high level of creativity in Iceland


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  • Nature is not a factor The landscape is not a major contributing factor to innovation or creativity in Icelandic society. Photo/Vilhelm

A new study by researchers at the University of Kansas suggests that the reasons for the high level of innovation and creativity in Icelandic society lie in parenthood that encourages free play, open and egalitarian families, focused on creativity, arts and crafts in schools and government support for culture, arts and innovation. The natural environment, which many overseas visitors assume to be a major contributing factor, plays little role, the study concludes.

A creative society
By many international measures, Iceland is a leading country for innovation and creativity in a number of fields, including design, music, art and literature. For a country of only 340,000 people, Iceland has produced a remarkable number of internationally renowned successful artists, scientists and entrepreneurs. Among the questions the study wanted to address were why “one in 10 adults in the country has published a book, why playing in a band is considered a rite of passage and why almost everyone can knit and sew” .

Read more: NYT explores Icelandic literary tradition as annual ‘Christmas book deluge’ begins

Bækur, books, bókabúð

A research team from the University of Kansas has published an article looking at the factors that drive the small island nation to be so creative and examining whether any of the factors in its education system can be adopted in the United States. The study was led by Barbara Kerr, who is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Kansas. The study included an extensive review of literature on creativity and interviews with Icelanders who work in the creative industry.

Nature and landscape are not factors

Among the findings was that Icelanders do not necessarily view themselves or their society as more creative than others and dislike the popular claim that their unique natural environment is the source of inspiration. creative. Explanations for creativity included open and egalitarian families, innovation education programs and free play, cultural support for creativity, and government policies.

Esjan, Esja

The study argues that the public effort to introduce innovation education into school curricula more than 20 years ago encouraged creativity. Since the beginning of the 20th century, all Icelandic school children have been learning to use tools, build and create all kinds of products and more. Carpentry, sewing, knitting and cooking are taught from an early age in primary school.

Such practices are on the decline in the United States, the researchers note, where more and more attention is being paid to testing. Icelanders test little, have no IQ tests at school, and instead focus on learning and applying skills in all areas of the curriculum.

“I would say what this kind of education develops is creative self-efficacy,” notes Kerr, the lead researcher.

Strong family values
Research and Icelanders also agree that their open culture and supportive family life are key to fostering creativity. While the majority of children are born out of wedlock, cultural ideas about child rearing are strict. Mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and community members are all involved in raising children.

Read more: Study: Ease of communication between Icelandic children and their parents among the greatest in the world

Government support for families is also identified as an important factor in fostering skills, creativity and innovation in children. The government provides free childcare, allowing parents to work and create while their children are encouraged to participate in free games. The culture, the researchers note, also celebrates differences, gender equality and human rights.

Read more: Iceland ranked as the most equal country in the world for the 9th consecutive year

The urban landscape as a factor


Murals The city of Reykjavík has partnered with businesses and landlords to brighten up the city with street art. Photo/Jon Kaldal

While the idea of ​​nature being a strong source of inspiration is hated by Icelanders, the study argues that the built environment is generally cited as essential. Reykjavík’s makerspaces, where creatives can work together, cafes, art galleries and music venues help support creativity. Public art, both city-commissioned street art, as well as works by established artists, help create an environment of creativity.

Being a small country also has its advantages
Iceland’s small size is also cited as a strength. This makes it easier for creatives to get noticed and find other people to collaborate with. Young musicians, filmmakers and artists discover each other quickly.

“Creative kids here in the United States tend to be seen as a problem. But over there, the idea of ​​encouraging their kids to be different is very common,” Kerr said. afraid that their child will be different.”

About Tracy G. Larimore

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