Maisie Leach dumped everything she could find on to the floor.
It was a mess.
There was a walking crutch, an empty egg carton, a tissue box, several glossy pages ripped from magazines, a black scarf, jacket and a large colorful purse.
It wasn’t a mess for long. The Radford University interior design major quickly positioned the items into the shape of a peace sign, took a photo of the creation with her phone and moved on to fashion another sign.
She needed to create 30 peace signs, with any object she could find, in 40 minutes.
No time to waste. The clock was ticking!
“I was just thinking about what’s the next different thing I could get my hands on the fastest to create the next peace sign,” said Leach, a sophomore from Roanoke. “How could I do it in a way that I haven’t already done? How could I look at this from a different perspective?”
Meanwhile, other students and a few faculty members in the large room inside Kyle Hall scrambled to do the same thing, shaping the object they had dreamed up minutes before – eye balls, keys, butterflies, hearts and so on – with materials – sticks, buttons, paper clips, coins, wire, rubber bands, humans or whatever – they could find in the room.
Tick! Tick! Tick!
Richmond-based artist, entrepreneur and author Noah Scalin was the ringleader of the organized chaos, offering advice along the way and dancing around as high-energy music filled the room.
Scalin designed the project, called Creative Sprint, to get students to think more creatively about solving problems in teams whose members had varying educational backgrounds and experiences.
He was on campus Jan. 31 to kickoff Radford University’s participation in the project, a 30-day hands-on experience aimed at providing students a real-world model for creative problem solving that can be applied to any context.
Students from the university’s College of Business and Economics (COBE), the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) and the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) are participating in the cross-college collaborative effort. In total, 36 students, 12 from each college, will work in teams of three. Each team will have a student representing each college.
Here’s how it works:
Each morning, participants receive an email with a unique prompt to investigate creative thinking. That day, team members will create something together in response. Then, they will document and share digital images of their creations on the Facebook page Radford Live Creative Sprint so others can see the creations as the month progresses.
Their progress can by followed on other social media such as Twitter and Instagram through the hashtag #RadfordCreativeSprint.
Kayla Troiano is a junior elementary education major who plans to teach first or second grade. She hopes participating in the 30-day challenge will help her be more creative in the classroom with the materials she already has in her possession.
“The cost of materials for activities is always the number one concern for me when planning,” said Troiano of Haymarket. “I think that by challenging myself to create with what I have will turn into a great skill for me to use in my future classroom.”
Art Professor Richard Bay, School of Teacher Education and Leadership Assistant Professor Matt Grimes and Marketing Assistant Professor Jane Machin are serving as faculty coaches.
“Creative Sprint will give students a set of strategies to help them engage the parts of their minds where creativity lives,” Grimes said. “When a learner generates their own thoughts, ideas, solutions and approaches, they learn more deeply and retain more knowledge.”
Machin said her primary goal for the challenge is increasing students’ creative confidence.
“That means being willing to take risks – not worrying about looking stupid – and sharing ideas early on so they can be improved,” she said. “Creativity is a practice and, just like going to the gym or learning piano, with regular practice your creativity can get better.”
A second goal, the COBE faculty member said, “is for students from the business school to get exposed to students from different disciplines and to see what they can learn from how they approach tasks and what examples they draw on.”
The challenge runs every day throughout February, including weekends. A “reflect and celebrate” wrap-up session is scheduled for March 3.
“I hope that Creative Sprint encourages students to branch out from simply reporting facts toward an imagining of how the facts might be applied in the current and future lives,” Grimes said.
Scalin developed Creative Sprint through his company Another Limited Rebellion to “draw out the creative potential and develop collaborative capabilities required for innovation.” At the kickoff event, Scalin spoke about a popular personal project in which he created artistic interpretations of skulls every day for a year.
Alumna Nancy Adams ‘84 helped organize the event for the RU students. “We designed this program for the university environment, and I wanted to make sure Radford University was the first in the country to have this experience,” she said.
Students will receive a certificate after completing the challenge, and perhaps more importantly, said COBE Dean George Low, it can be a highlight on their resumes.
“Employers want to hire people who can come in and bring new ideas and new ways of doing things,” Low said. “They want change, and they want competitive advantage. The only way to gain a competitive advantage is to come up with something new through creativity and innovation.”
Creative Sprint is that “something new,” Adams said.
“Innovation is about different people working together to come up with different ideas, and this is taking a very interdisciplinary approach to where we have students from business, education and the arts working together,” Adams said. “This process sets the stage for students to work together with people who think about things and see things differently. In the real world, that is who you get to work with.”
Through those collaborations, Leach said she hopes Creative Sprint will strengthen her “creativity muscle through everyday practice.”
“I hope to be able to take this more finely polished skill back to my interior design education and then to my future career as a designer,” she said. “Who knows…maybe I could draw someone a more unique floor plan for their home or create a more interesting focal point for a museum or retail space using the knowledge I will have gained from this program. It’s all about learning to solve practical problems in a creative way.”
— Courtesy of Chad Osborne