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Research Attempts To Find Reason Behind Icelanders’ Innovative Spirit

Research Attempts To Find Reason Behind Icelanders’ Innovative Spirit

Alice Demurtas
Words by
Photos by
Timothée Lambrecq
Julia Staples

Published January 29, 2018

According to a new research by the University of Kansas published in the magazine ‘Gifted and Talented International,’ Icelanders’ prolific creativity arises from their extensive educational curriculum as well as from social equality and the support for cultural innovation encouraged by public instutitions.

A creative hub

Iceland is seen worldwide as a hub for innovative projects that span from the arts to technology. Psychology Professor Barbara Kerr was interested in pinpointing physical, cultural, social or environmental reasons behind such a strong creative drive. Ultimately, the goal was to take note of the influencing factors and assess whether they could be implemented into the educational system in the United States.

Kerr, whose interest in Iceland sparked when her daughter moved here to study, interviewed 15 Icelandic individuals working in various creative fields. The interviewees seemed to reject the idea that Icelanders have special abilities or that the beauty of the surroundings had any influence on their creativity whatsoever.

School, family and society

Interviews named in fact first and foremost school curricula that integrated arts, crafts and technological innovation in their workload. Courses that teach how to make objects from scratch or that focus in producing arts, as well as playing instruments were a prominent factor. Furthermore, free play among younger children was considered crucial, as well as a bigger focus on individual skills rather than on taking exams.

Equality within the family and governmental policies that encourage creativity and innovation were also named by the interviewees.

What seemed to interest Bell the most, however, was the idea that Icelandic kids are given more freedom to try new things than the average American child. “A creative child is often seen as a problem in the US. But in Iceland it’s important to let the children be different,” Kerr explains. “Parents aren’t afraid of their children being different.”


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