Category Archives: creativity

ICreate Week Three: Connect

Strangely enough, I didn’t kill myself as much to prepare for these past two classes. I think it’s mainly due to my figuring out how to become more efficient. Two screens. Banana and organic peanut butter with a wink of cinnamon. Shelley’s book laid out in front of me at a 37.8 degree angle. Ganesha’s blessings. Boom. And the color yellow.

Week Three: Connect

I like to make my students feel uncomfortable by taking photos.

This class I began with a new type of brainstorm. Rather than writing/drawing in abundance with no limits, I tried a new tactic: establish a paradigm. This paradigm was still rather unrestrained, as all it required was the students to connect their ideas directly from each other by drawing a line and a bubble. It started from leaf and I think we ended up with things like Oscar the Grouch, video games, narcissism, and cavemen.


Then proceeded into the four ways I broke down the connect brainset: defocused attention, divergent thinking, connections/metaphors, and a dose of happiness. 

I’ve always loved teaching about divergent thinking because it’s so contradictory to the style of learning usually approached within schools. The fine arts usually tries to tackle the idea generation phenomenon moreso than other classes. And of course, it’s part of my neuroscience thesis. I first brushed upon the three types of problems: reasonable, unreasonable, and illogical. Reasonable – straightforward question and one straightforward, singular answer (i.e. SAT, school tests). Unreasonable – straightforward question with one answer as well, but one is required to “think outside the box” in order to solve it (i.e. brain teasers). The example I let them try was to draw 9 dots and  they had to connect all 9 of them with four straight lines. Don’t scroll down for the solution unless you really can’t be bothered. Okay sweet I know you already saw it.

[picture]

The last type of problem is illogical, which ties in with divergent thinking. It is a singular question that has many answers. The one I proposed to them was “What if you were about to give a speech on healthcare but your fly was unzipped and the zipper was broken?” Their responses ranged from: “Get a penguin to stand in front of you” to “Incorporate the metaphor of an unzipped fly into your speech” to “use a stamp”.

Then we jumped into actually practicing the figural portion of the TTCT. I provided these three symbols and asked them to draw whatever came to mind as long as they used these sketches. Here are responses I got (started on paper then some volunteered to draw on the board):

I felt that my section on connections and metaphors was too broad. There were so many beautiful things about metaphors and its interplay in our lives that I wanted to cover but 2 hours weren’t quite enough. So I ended up sprinting through the last third of the class (almost to no effect…).

But I did have them practice synesthesia thinking! Synesthesia – the condition of reading colors and hearing smells. Sometimes people are confused when asked to imagine what it may be like to dance textures or taste sounds, but it’s a lot more intuitive than most people imagine. We operate our lives through the function of metaphor – almost no communication would be valid without this concept. The main difference between a true synesthesiate and someone practicing synesthesia is the element of spontaneity (synesthesiates can’t inhibit this).

Anyways, I had them do the smelling-drawing activity I typically like to use. Then we experimented with listening to music, describing how being “courageous” felt in our bodies, what the word narcissism tastes like, and a few more.

Click here to see some random student responses to the DT questions and synesthesia questions.

Here is the powerpoint.

Week four will be up soon.

I promise we’ll be more productive soon.

Random thought:

I got to sit on Siri’s Art and Yoga class last week. One student’s response to my question “How’d you find the TTCT?” was “I did so bad on that test. I’m so uncreative.” I get that response from so many adults. It made me think – even just bringing up the challenge of being creative in a classroom setting can completely change someone’s mindset. Or maybe it doesn’t. Just something to chew on, like the color purple.

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I Create: Week 1 & 2

Anddddd it’s been a while. I realize that. Being overwhelmed with schoolwork (behind), TFA (behind), other teaching applications (behind), and extracurriculars doesn’t really help.

One of the major things that has been taking up my time is preparing for a two-hour seminar I teach on a weekly basis. My Fridays and Saturdays tend to be consumed in preparation for a delicious divulgence in creativity and neuroscience. The class is taught as part of the HCESP (which I had to email to find out what it stands for – Harvard College Education Studies Program), and so far I’ve been introducing middle school and high school kids to concepts that I’m pretty sure not many Harvard students know about (I assured them that this is one thing I hope that they take away from this class – they can boast about how their intelligence > Harvard kids > me to their parents and friends).

It’s been a challenging experience so far and I’m already doused in the dilemmas of classroom management. When I taught English to Chinese elders, they were all very respectful and polite, eager to learn the nuances of our language. In contrast, half of my students bounce off the walls, most likely encouraged by my casual attitude (no shoes pwease and doodling encouraged) and subject matter. Shocking at first, but still a lot of fun. I’ve noticed how I always wonder how boring some material is for students, but then realize that I came to the class to teach, not to be complaisant.

I started the class with a brainstorm on the board – I wrote the word “grass” and let the students write whatever they wanted. I tried to carry out part of a study where subjects were asked to brainstorm with an anonymous experimenter planted in the room. The experimenter yelled out an unrelated word such as “disgusting” or “french fries”, which then lead to a much deeper, broader, and creative brainstorm from the participants in comparison to control brainstorms without the experimenter (most likely due to a decrease in inhibitions and more relaxed atmosphere). So I threw up the word “disgusting”. Unfortunately, didn’t really work as a) half the students didn’t see it b) most students looked at the word and said “Huh?” – perhaps writing vs. speaking issues.

I finished the class off with a food neuron building session (shameless luring of the children for future classes? Yes?)

Neurotransmitters = M&Ms, cell body = pop chip, dendrites = gummy worms, axon = chocolate wafer stick, myelin sheath = outer part of the wafer stick

Okay some are wrong, I know 🙂

Not a neuron.

Check out here for the pre-class survey, the worksheet, and powerpoint for the first class.

For my second class, I had an even greater number of students which was even more overwhelming. It’s funny to see how differently students behave/attitudes and it brought me back to my first yoga class I taught at the Veterans Association – I was completely blown away by the diversity of bodies and wasn’t sure how to cater to everyone. I guess this goes back to learning how to stay true to your teaching style (while being flexible at the same time. Paradoxes a la Dao De Jing). Also, I know teachers probably deal with this a lot – the insecurities that cloud over as you watch your students not paying attention to you at all? Now I know how it feels.

Started with a brainstorm on how to link “french fries” and “lions”. Then proceeded to review more neuroscience and jumped into the “Absorb Brainset”.  I am basing my curriculum off of Shelley Carson’s 7 brainsets of creativity, but I’m leaving out reason and evaluate as those two are taught fairly well with our current education system. I highlighted four aspects of absorb: curiousity, open mind, internal and external awareness, and lack of judgment. I also tried to introduce the kids to ADD/ADHD, the 5-trait personality scale, meditation, and alcoholism. I’m not sure how much I’m compromising breadth for depth. I just hope the students have something to think/talk about. I even introduced them to the mesolimbic/dopaminergic/reward pathways in the brain which might have been a little much.

Here are the ppts etc.

Okay, so of course I was prepared for how difficult it would be to have middle schoolers do breath meditation and mindfulness meditation. Sort of.

I tried several times and half the kids messed around. It was totally fine as you only really meet them where they’re at. Instead, I just tried to have them be respectful of the other students who wanted to meditate by asking them to either doodle or text quietly, or even sleep. For the kids who did meditate, a lot of them had really awesome reflections on meditating – one said he felt like he was soaring, another had a trippy vision, others struggled to stay awake. Ultimately, even having one student appreciate how meditation can induce you to be in the absorb state is pretty awesome.

I also attempted a walking meditation in the end – again, same dilemma. And then I teased them (okay no I didn’t – I was really trying to get them to do mindful eating!) by giving them each a bit of chocolate. I was very impressed by their ability to hold off eating the food. I asked them to smell the chocolate carefully first, then take a small nibble – allowing the chocolate to melt on their tongue. By this point, I was getting a symphony of groans and pleads, so I let them finish it off 🙂

I think my favorite thing about teaching though is finding about what kids are passionate about – what they’ll spend hours doing because whatever it is becomes the most fascinating thing in the world. I was teaching about the “Absorb Brainset” and even though I couldn’t get everyone to meditate, it’s good knowing they have their own thing going on (i.e. Zarina’s obsession with symbols which she showed me at the end of class):

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a nice little homemade chickpea soup, but ultimately failed in blending up the roasted peppers (halving the recipe didn’t help too much). Still, I get a kick out of my bay leaves.

OMNOMNOM Indian food night!!! Palak Paneer and “some mixed veg thing” as my friend likes to call it.

And if you were ever curious about the type of chocolate I tried to get the students to meditate on…milk chocolate bar infused with potato chips. You don’t have to ask me how I feel about salt and chocolate (=heaven). However, you can ask me how I feel about milk chocolate (=meh no).

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Week One Photos

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Student Responses to Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech about creativity and her muse

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Amateurism and Imperfection

A couple weeks ago Kara put on a Boston Youth Leadership Conference and asked me to speak once again. I agreed to and developed a hybrid presentation based off of my PRISE and Chinese Leadership presentations. Lucky for me, this time it was in English so no opportunities to butcher any languages (unless I did without realizing. Oops.)

My brainstorming at Radcliffe Yard.

I quickly went through my little swimming saga, then dove into creativity and its implicit and explicit theories. My favorite part was the interactive portion: a quick divergent thinking task asking the kids to draw something with a little squiggle; a smell/taste experience which required them to draw the sensations; and finally an activity that sets up one’s mind to think more openly – visually focus on an object but then allow your attention to diffuse into the peripheral part of your vision. This translates into a metaphor for your body which puts your mind in a state of divergent thinking.

I was so pumped after giving the talk, especially since most kids stayed awake during the entirety of the presentation (I did make them do a inner visualization about the feeling of disappointment, and I may have lost a few soldiers there).

If you want to see my powerpoint, click here: Creativity and How to Think Differently

Right before giving my 90 minute (was originally supposed to be 45. Don’t worry Kara gave me permission) presentation, I held this mudra for about a minute, and also told myself: “I bow to imperfection.” Things I wish I had learned as a kid. Be imperfect, wait, what? You’re kidding.

On the new domain: I had an interesting little chat with my Dad the other day. As I moved to choosing my domain for this website (neurocholatier.com? thechocolate-apprentice.com? thechocoapprentice.com? I’m bummed that this person took x5 different ways to write my blog title) he asked me why I didn’t switch from being an apprentice to a chocolatier.

Well, it’s because I will always be an amateur.

One of the best conversations I’ve had in the past month was with a friend who I met last summer in San Francisco (who just dropped everything in his life to go sail the world. Pumped for him.) Among many things, one of the things we discussed is what he wanted in life (one of those casual ten things lists – said it took him 2 minutes. It’s taking me more than 2 weeks). And one of my favorites was that he will always be an amateur in music. He’s an amazing, talented jazz pianist but he chose to always be an amateur, never an expert. I liked that attitude.

While working at Clover, I learned that everyone wears blue aprons. Head Chef Rolando came up with the idea – blue is reserved for the apprentices in the kitchen. As with Clover, all employees, including the experienced chefs are all apprentices for life. I love this concept embodying humility and this passion for learning. Something I would love to cultivate in other areas of my life too.

So back to Kyle (friend) – it made me think of the question: what will I always be an apprentice in?

I threw that discussion back to my Dad. Thus, I am always the chocolate apprentice.

Ok yes that would be me trying to sign off with my beautiful blue Clover apron and uttrabodhi mudra…and being late to class.

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Creating Corn Chowder

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/08/13/kobe-bryant-kevin-systrom-and-the-science-of-creativity/

love this one quote:

You can’t train to be creative. You can’t be coached. You must allow—allow your brain to make new connections by getting out of the office, attending conferences, traveling to new places, having lunch at a different restaurant, or taking a class in a topic unrelated to your job. By doing so your passions will be stirred, your brain’s neurons will fire, and your creativity will soar.

Chinese Youth Service Leadership Conference…

Yesterday Kara had me speak at her conference involving 20 high school students from GuangZhou, China who were interested in service and entrepreneurship.

My portion? I spoke to them (in butchered Chinese – alas, not speaking for a year!) about implicit perceptions of creativity in the East and West, based off of my research paper I did for my creativity class last semester on implicit views of creativity in the East and their connections to Confucian ideals. To introduce them to the major concepts (Westerners find that the creative process involves intrinsic motivation, love for aesthetic, and willingness to break the rules), I began with my own story – how I did something I really didn’t have a passion for all through primary until college, and how that reflected in my progress in swimming. The bigger thing I emphasized was that because I was unhappy, I wasn’t willing to look around at my environment and listen to other people’s stories and make their lives better. I remember chatting with my Dad once who told me: You have to help yourself first before you can help other people. Very true.

You can check out my powerpoint here… (potential recording of me later). Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what I’m trying to get at through some of the slides (I’m a very picture heavy, minimal word type of presenter), so hopefully you can figure out what’s going on.

nihao

I felt really fortunate that Kara gave me the opportunity to talk to these kids about my past and these ideas because I feel that these are some of the biggest issues within the East Asian education system – the lack of encouragement to fail and make mistakes, the lack of “play time” and experimentation, the authoritative teacher-student relationship, lack of emphasis on learning to take in one’s surroundings and forming connections/metaphors, etc.

And for me, it’s pretty personal. I grew up with their mentality – the “fear of disappointing” and the fear of self-expression. I really wanted to let them know that they’re okay whatever they do and that they should be enjoying their experience in the world this very moment.

I’m hoping they liked my craziness? Kara said they were more engaged than ever. I was running around the room, speaking in Chinglish, making terrible jokes, and just generally hyper about what I was talking about. I wish I could’ve spoken for longer and gone through more exercises with them (like asking what sort of music chocolate tastes like, or what colors you would use to describe your meal, etc.) but I only had 30 minutes.

Daily Nutritional Facts

Had Basil Lemonade at Clover the other day. Oh-my-goodness I think it’s the best kind of lemonade out there. Better than rose, better than lavender, and…dare I say it? Better than my one and only ginger?

I love basil. It’s such a round herb that has a hint of spice and such complexity when fresh. It’s definitely one of the herbs you don’t really ever want dried.

On that note, got my beautiful share of basil from my friend’s farm share (as I’m covering for her over the next couple of weeks) and also got my hands on way. too. much. corn. 10 pieces to be exact! Solution?

CORN CHOWDER

I loved how it came out – light enough with thyme dancing away in the background, but the potatoes added a key element of thickness to the soup. Perfect for the summer. And great cold too!

Also – my first soup ever.

I never took the time to really appreciate how soup is made. I now realize it’s a pretty solid way to create delicious food. (I can hear people rolling their eyes)

The recipe itself was taken from “The Conscious Cook”, a vegan cookbook I hold dear to my heart as it was the first cookbook I was introduced to while I did my little stint at Sandrine’s. Granted, I didn’t have the cutlery to make my setup as beautiful as his, but it still tasted pretty damn good.

Ingredients: 

Sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
a cup of diced onion
a few cloves of garlic minced
one large carrot diced into 1/4 inch cubes (I LOVE DICING)
half a celery stalk 1/4 inch dice, half of a red bell pepper (I’d now go for more) in a 1/4 inch dice
2.5 cups veggie stalk
cayenne pepper (the recipe called for 1 dried chipotle pepper)
2 small-medium size potatoes peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice, thyme (I didn’t have fresh sprigs on me, even with my undercover deals with the Harvard Community garden)
3 ears of corn
3/4 cup cashew cream (1. soak cashews over night with a bit of salt and water fully covering 2. drain and rinse 3. place in a blender and pour an inch of water 4. food process away m’dear!)
freshly ground black pepper
minced chives
1/4 cup diced tomato

1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with salt and heat for a minute (creates a non-stick effect! Who knew?) Add oil and heat up for another 30 seconds – make sure it doesn’t smoke. Throw in the garlic for literally 10 seconds and give it a quick stir. 

2. Then quickly add the onions, carrots, celery, and pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring a lot.

3. Then add the stock, potatoes, chile, and thyme. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (15-20 min).

4. Use the back of a spoon or a fork to mash up the potatoes. Add the raw corn (which should be stripped form the cob) and cashew cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Garnish with chives and tomato! Done!

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JKZ’s Challenge

Wanted to throw this quote down…try picking one question per week to focus on. And the main idea behind it is how does your body feelnot just the action:

“On the other hand, you might also be mindful of positive thoughts and feelings as they occur. How does your body fell when you see obstacles as challenges? How does it feel when you are experiencing joy? When you are trusting others? When you are generous and showing kindness? When you are loving? What are the effects of these inner experiences of yours on others? Can you see the immediate consequences of your positive emotional states and of your optimistic perspective at those times? Do these influence other people’s anxiety and pain? Is there a sense of greater peace within yourself at these times?”

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An Ode to Arm Muscle Contractions

So a girl asked for an intensive arms/core workout, and I thought building up to a forearm stand was a perfect sequence. Check this article out for more advice on building up to a forearm stand.

On a separate note, I made an effort to really understand the different kinds of contractions, and what yoga poses/physio moves were great for building arm strength in particular. Check it:

For more explanations for the types of arm stretches (ekabuhjaswastiakasjdflkwhuuuuuut?), check the article page as well.

I attended the Clover All-Team Member meeting this past Sunday at the HUB. I thought it was such an awesome concept, as all employees got free beer (Allgash White, to be precise), samples of the new 3pm special – blueberries and whipped cream, and a delicious chocolate cupcake. Again, somehow the chefs nail it with the mild sweetness but fresh taste of the cupcakes, with a light frosting that wasn’t overpowering, meeting its match with freshly picked peppermint leaves. Something about fresh mint in anything kills me.

Ayr gave a brief download on the environmental impact and growth Clover was having. My favorite part was the “tasting” game (where 12 unknown ingredients were provided and we had to guess what they were) and a food education presentation given by Chef Rolando. Both were powerful and so interesting (for me, oh the food obsessed). Interesting things:

1) Their parsnip sandwich, a combination of parsnip, cheddar, spinach (in the earlier versions), and caramelized spring onions that were caramelized with cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, mustard seeds, and fresh horseradish. The idea of cooking things that weren’t sweet with cinnamon intrigued me and I did a brief search and came up with these ideas:

  • cauliflower
  • parsnips
  • garlic cloves
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • BBQ Brisket
  • Squash
  • Pizza
  • Orzo salad
  • Curried red lentil soup
  • Grapefruit

2) Wheat gluten (things to make your tempeh with) looks and smells like flour (even whole wheat), but once you taste it your saliva gets everything super gooey.

3) Determining the difference between cilantro and parsley for me is….difficult. I went to the Harvard Community Garden yesterday and tried both. The cilantro tasted more ocean-y to me, while the Italian parsley taste more clovery, sprouty, and sunny to me. Let’s see if I can remember that at all…

4) Belgian Wheat Beer can be flavored with coriander, who knew?

RESEARCH MOVES FORWARD, ALBEIT SLOWLY!

Finally, finally, finally the brain data was successfully converted into a format we could use and I could start doing the reconstructing and skull stripping. Alas, I was letting the program run over night and it only got through…3/15 sessions. Derp. Oh well still letting it run.

Meanwhile, I take over the world. Or in other words, find myself amused/fascinated by some of the figural responses on the TTCT as I grade them.

 

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Daily Nutrition Facts

Made myself a salad with red cabbage, kale, cucumbers, smokey tofu, and a mix of vegannaise and BBQ spice.

Also tried green gooseberries for the first time! They are possibly one of the most interesting fruits I’ve had. Fuzzy on the outside, filled with a grape texture inside, but also with seeds that are not unlike chia seeds. Kind of an adventure in the mouth. Tart and sweet like a green grape, but with slightly more complexity and hollowness to the palette. Apparently a recipe suggestion: “Stew gooseberries with coconut milk, Indian spices and vegetables, then serve as a curry over rice.” Omnomnom. I had the pleasure of trying red currents for the first time as well. I don’t have the patience right now to try a pie, but they were deliciously fresh and tart.

I got to adopt a Patty Pan Squash and harvest rainbow chard + kale in return for teaching yoga at the Harvard Community Garden (every Tuesday from 6 – 7 pm). So. Much. Love.

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