CIRCE began with the founding of the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG) in 2001 by Professor and Canada Research Chair Dr. Kieran Egan. Dr. Egan, recipent of the 1991 Grawemeyer Award in Education and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, was one of the first recipients of a Tier 2 Chair at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and the IERG was dedicated to studying and extending his approach to understanding the imaginative lives of children and using those insights to make teaching more imaginatively engaging.
From 2001 to 2015, the IERG built an extensive network of researchers, educators (from pre-K to post-secondary), graduate students, parents, educational leaders, and others interested in making education more effective, both across Canada and in many other countries. The International Conferences on Imagination and Education, hosted by the IERG in Vancouver from 2003 to 2015, played an important role in these efforts, as did the numerous workshops and Master’s programs developed and delivered by IERG members. A number of externally funded research projects explored the potential of Egan’s ideas to improve outcomes for Aboriginal students, for literacy and science teaching, for environmental and place-based education, and so on. IERG members also produced several MA and PhD theses on issues in imaginative education over this period.
In 2007, the SFU Senate approved the establishment of the Centre for Imaginative Education as a university-wide and international research centre. The intent from the beginning was that the Centre would complement the work of the IERG by providing a broader tent for researchers working with the imagination in other ways. In practice, however, the IERG remained the more active and visible face of the work at SFU. Its close ties to Dr. Egan’s work and career inspired a loyal following among students, teachers and researchers and provided a clear focus for its activities. By the same token, however, Dr. Egan’s retirement from the university in December 2015 signalled the end of an era for the IERG. In 2016-2018 it became increasingly apparent that the IERG’s achievements could best be secured by reviving and expanding the role of the Centre as a hub for a broader range of thinking, research and educational practice involving the imagination.
The current reincarnation of the Centre as CIRCE–the Centre For Imagination In Research, Culture, & Education–was sparked by discussions among some of the long-term leaders of IERG and the Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education at SFU. CIRCE will continue to promote Dr. Egan’s work and encourage others to use and build on it. At the same time, CIRCE seeks to engage educators and scholars who have been drawn to imagination through other forms of theory, research and practice. We anticipate much fruitful cross-fertilization among these different perspectives and approaches in the years to come.