CREATIVITY IN THE COMMUNITY: Cultivating courage and creativity at Galileo Learning

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By Jonathan Lazatin

“Developing your child’s innovator’s mindset is really important, no matter what age. Ultimately, for kids to use the knowledge they hold and apply it to any creative process, they need to see themselves as an actor in the world--a changemaker. Being visionary, determined, courageous, collaborative and reflective are elements of the mindset we believe are instrumental.”

As an educator and community builder with Design Dance, I am constantly in pursuit of ways to connect the vast amount of community knowledge to the work we do in fostering connection, courage and self-awareness in our students. Part of this search means finding other organizations doing amazing work expanding educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth. One such organization that’s new to the area, but has been doing this work for a long time in California is Galileo Learning.

Galileo operates over 70 innovation summer camps in locations across the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and now the Chicagoland area.  They host approximately 25,000 campers each summer--1,500 in their first summer in Chicago alone. During weeklong sessions, campers explore art, science, and outdoors while focusing on instilling the innovator’s mindset, the confidence to create, the self-awareness to follow their own path, and the ability to tackle challenges by learning an innovator’s design process. And, of course having a ridiculous amount of fun. To learn a little more about the ways they cultivate courage and creativity in their campers, we spoke with Tajalli Horvat, the Senior Vice President of Midwest Operations at Galileo.

What makes a courageous and innovative kid?

First, all kids have the capacity to be courageous and innovative. What they define to be courageous looks different for each person. For one kid, sharing their own idea is being courageous. For another, it’s persevering through a challenge. It’s up to the individual to identify what it means to be courageous.  Galileo teaches what they call the Galileo Innovation Approach, or GIA, which has 3 components: knowledge, mindset, and process. Campers learn information and skills in different areas, they practice the various elements of the innovator’s mindset, and use an iterative process to bring an idea to reality.

Developing your child’s innovator’s mindset is really important, no matter what age. Ultimately, for kids to use the knowledge they hold and apply it to any creative process, they need to see themselves as an actor in the world--a changemaker. Being visionary, determined, courageous, collaborative and reflective are elements of the mindset we believe are instrumental.

This doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice just like anything else. It’s amazing to see what is possible even within a week.

What can parents do to encourage their kids to be innovative?

One thing you can do is praise your child’s effort vs. focusing on the results. For many, it’s an easy default to praise the outcome of something, catching a ball, painting a portrait, or completing a difficult dance move. However, just praising results can have negative consequences as kids can link their value and self-esteem to those results, often relating outcomes to innate ability rather than effort.

You can help your child reflect on their process by praising how hard they worked, how long they stuck with a project, and asking what went right and wrong and what can be done differently next time. This kind of praise can help kids build confidence in their ability to exert effort rather than in having or not having innate abilities. It is also critical to communicate with teachers and school staff to see how effort and process is being praised in their classroom to reinforce this perspective at school and at home. This supports the development of a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset. If you want to learn more about this concept, read Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Another powerful resource is storytelling. You can use examples from your own life that highlight when you’ve made a mistake and learned something from it. Share it with your child. We all know that being a changemaker is not easy and to get to your end goal, you have to persevere through challenges and multiple failures… but this failure can be turned into amazing possibilities and we want kids to know that failure is normal and part of the process.  We want them to try again instead of giving up. There are a lot of great books that also highlight this like, Rosie Revere, Engineer that are great ways to highlight this.

What have you learned about building courage, collaboration and forward thinking?

First, create the right environment for kids. They need a really safe and comfortable space that encourages them to be themselves and express themselves in whatever way is important to them. Second, having the right people to nurture and support that environment. No matter what age a child is, role models are crucial to cheer kids and to be consistently positive, supportive and encouraging while kids experience challenges. Third, being intentional with activities to help develop those skills and mindsets and reinforce them on a daily basis. Finally, help kids think critically by asking questions instead of giving the answers. See yourself as a coach and teacher in the appropriate situation.

There are plenty of ways to cultivate and empower courage and creativity in kids. Parents can enlist the support of programs like Galileo Learning and Design Dance to create these experiences for kids. They can also create spaces at home for making and creation as well. The key is creating an environment that allows kids to feel safe in being themselves, empowers them to be change makers in the world, and encourages them to reflect upon their work so that they can constantly improve. Check out more resources head to The Groove and learn more about our friends at Galileo’s Bright Ideas Blog.


Galileo Learning is on a mission to create a world of fearless innovators and they are constantly looking for people to help make this happen. If you’re a recent college grad, an educator,artist, grad student, tech buff or seasoned professional, Galileo is inviting you to join the team. Check out opportunities on their website.