As a young man I worked in a small New England hospital. I was in charge of maintenance and housekeeping. The manager of the hospital's laundry had been doing such work all his adult life and had an eight-grade education. He also had learned steam fitting and knew how to handle pipes, valves and all the other devices for moving high-pressure steam system of the hospital and engaged Roland to teach me what he knew. I learned more than I bargained for.

    Roland loved steam fitting. He taught me how to avoid being burned by escaping steam. He demonstrated over and over again the artistry of joining old pipes to prevent leaks. He showed me how to simplify and improve a piping system that had become obsolete and inadequate over the years. With care and patience, we gradually renewed the steam system, saving the hospital much money.

    I was impressed with how Roland laid out the tools as if the bench were an artist's palette, carefully assessing what would be required to fix a length of pipe or a joint, taking time to smoothly run the pipe dope over the threads, making sure any sweated joints were completely filled, insisting we buy the best materials for whatever we were doing. He taught me patience, care, even an aesthetic appreciation, so that the results looked well, trim and clean. Steam fitting was Roland's art form. He loved the work, gained much satisfaction from it and enjoyed it when others could appreciate what he had done.

     Excellence in just about any field is creative. Nurturing creativity in children is more than having them learn one art. It's about helping them discover what they love to do and helping them learn to do it satisfactorily.

    When we look at the root of creativity we see it as capable of being manifested in anything children can do with their voices, hands or bodies. A part in a play is a product of children's selves if they are encouraged to do more than just say the lines. Many professional comedians honed their talents in their parent's living rooms, learning the art of expressing the self through humor at an early age before an admiring audience. Scientists often began their careers in childhood through passionate collecting of bones, bugs or butterflies. The best mechanics I have met started playing with automobile engines when they were teenagers; as adults they have learned to bring cars to the high level of performance that great musicians expect from their instruments.

    Creativity is in the process, not the medium! The more you can understand this principle, the more likely you are to see creative expression in what your children are doing. The more readily you see its early, tender manifestations, the more capable you are of nurturing it appropriately.
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