Category Archives: Creative Problem Solving

Creative Thinking Prompt: Sand Castles

Creative Thinking Prompt: Sand Castles

Whether you go to the beach or play in the sand at your local park, get ready to be inspired by these sand castles.



Creative Thinking Prompt: Design a sand castle that serves a purpose. Who would live in your sand castle? How is your castle protected? What rooms does your castle need? Where would your castle be built? Why is your castle being built? How will your castle stay intact? Give your castle a name. Sketch your castle. Then build it!

Creative Thinking Prompt: Building with Ice Cubes

Ice is slippery. Ice is wet. Ice melts. Then how can you build with ice?

Creative Thinking Prompt: Build a structure using ice cubes, using the creative thinking strategy SCAMPER. SCAMPER was developed by Bob Eberle based upon Alex Osborn’s creating thinking questions. Alex Osborn is the originator of brainstorming.


Scamper is based upon seven creative thinking principles. Each principle views your idea in a different manner. By asking questions related to each principle, Scamper gets you thinking about which areas of your idea you can improve.

S = Substitute:  Remove some part and replace it with something else.

What else can I use instead of clear water to create ice cubes?

C = Combination:  Join or force together two or more elements of your subject to develop a solution.

What things can I combine together to make a better ice cube?

What can I use to stick the cubes together?

A = Adapt:  Change some part so that it works where before it didn’t work.

What might I do to change the structure of the ice cubes to make them not melt quickly?

M = Magnify or modify:  Consider the attributes of the subject and change them. Attributes include: size, shape, other dimensions, texture, color, position, etc.

How will smaller or larger ice cubes work within my structure?

P = Put to other uses:  Think about your subject – why it exists, what it is used for, what it’s supposed to do. Then think up new and unusual purposes.           

How else can I use an ice cube?

E = Eliminate:  Remove any or all elements of the subject.

What can I remove from my structure to make it stronger and last longer?

R = Rearrange or reverse:  Look at the subject from different perspectives. Turn it upside-down, inside-out. Make it go backwards, against the direction it was intended to go or be used. Similar to Reverse, modify the order of operations or any other hierarchy involved.

What would happen if I rearrange the ice cubes in my structure?

As I used SCAMPER more questions popped into my mind.

  • How would using pop, sugar water, jello, or millk affect the structure of an ice cube?
  • Would the different ingredients make the cube stick together easier? Would it melt less?
  • What if I let the cubes melt a little and then refreeze them – would my structure “stick” together?
  • How would small and large cubes help with building my structure?
  • Is there a better way to build an ice structure?
  • What if I froze a smaller cube inside a larger cube?
  • How can I make my structure colorful?

To make glow-in-the-dark cubes, visit:

Think Deeper: Build an ice cube arch.

The Most Magnificent Thing

“The Most Magnificent Thing

One day a girl has a wonderful idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows how it will look and how it will work. After she makes it, it doesn’t look or work how she imagined.

She tries again and again but it still won’t work. It isn’t magnificent.

Frustrated and angry, she quits. Her trusty helper tells her to go for a walk.

When they return, she sees all the things she created. Each one better than before. That gives her an idea…

This book promotes discovery, the creative process, and risk-taking.

TITLE: The Most Magnificent Thing

AUTHOR: Ashley Spires

ILLUSTRATOR: Ashley Spires

PUBLISHER: Kids Can Press, 2014


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: discovery, the creative process, risk-taking


1) Pick an invention that interests you. What might you change to make it better? What might you add or subtract from it? Can you substitute a different part? What else can the invention be used for?

2) What do you do when you are frustrated? Do you quit, give up? Do you push forward and try again? Do you try a new approach? Tell about a time that you wanted to quit but you didn’t.


To learn more about author/illustrator Ashley Spires, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Creative Thinking Prompt: Use 5W1H to Make Your Goals for the New Year

What will the new year bring for you? Use 5W1H to help make a plan to achieve your 2017 goals. 5W1H, a creative thinking technique, uses questions to help define a problem and prompt creative thinking solutions. The 5Ws are who, what, where, when, and why. The 1H is how. For example, let’s say one of your goals is to become a better person.

Who are some people admire?

Why do you admire them?

What qualities do you admire about them?

Where can you express those qualities?

When can you express those qualities?

How can you express those qualities?

Now make a list of goals that you would like to achieve next year. Pick one of those goals to use 5W1H to help you clarify and achieve your goal.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Engineering Gingerbread Houses


For some people, making gingerbread houses is a tradition. For others, it’s a fun party activity. Whatever your reason for constructing a gingerbread house this year, the house needs a solid foundation. Before you start building, think about these things as you begin to design.



Construction Materials


Visual Appeal


At Brown University, the students of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) host an annual gingerbread building contest to see whose aesthetically appealing house can withstand an earthquake shake. Competitors are given graham crackers, icing, marshmallows, gumdrops, cereal, gummy sharks and more sweets. They have one hour to build a 6 x 6 x 6 hollow house.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Experiment with Building a Gingerbread Structure

After you’ve sketched a house design, try experimenting with different types of building materials. For the outside walls – graham crackers, wafers, rice crackers, multi-grain crackers, thin cookies. For the “adhesive” – marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, different types of frosting, royal icing, melted gummy bears. Which materials worked best?

Once you’ve constructed your building and added decorations, try shaking it to see if it would withstand a quake. Which structure/design worked best?

To learn more about SWE’s contest, view:

To inspire you, view some beautiful gingerbread buildings at:

Creative Thinking Prompt: Snow Artist Simon Beck


Simon Beck Snow Art

12-2-16 Creative Thinking Prompt: Snow Artist Simon Beck

With an engineering background and a keen sense of direction, snowshoe-cladded Simon Beck treks through the snow creating awe-inspiring geometric art.

In this six minute video, watch Beck work and discover what inspires his designs.

Creative Thinking Prompt: Design a geometric image. First sketch it on paper, then draw it in fresh snow or in sand.

To learn more about Simon Beck, visit:

To view more of Simon Beck’s snow art, visit:

Making Origami Science Experiments


Use origami (paper folding) to perform scientific experiments and test hypotheses. From a dish soap racing boat to a table kite to a fan, readers practice origami folds to test science concepts such as surface tension, water molecules, air resistance, gravity and mass.


This story promotes creative problem solving, wonder, discovery and combination.

TITLE: Making Origami Science Experiments Step by Step

AUTHOR: Michael G. LaFosse

ILLUSTRATOR: Michael G. LaFosse

PUBLISHER: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2004


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: creative problem solving, wonder, discovery, combination.


1) A hypothesis is a guess. Develop a hypothesis that you’d like to test. Then design an experiment to prove or disprove your hypothesis. After you’ve completed your experiment, what new questions do you have? Will you create a new hypothesis?

2) Fold a piece of paper. Smaller and smaller… How many times can you fold the paper? Could this folding go on indefinitely or will it stop?

3) To create origami art, visit this link:


To learn more about author/illustrator Michael G. LaFosse, visit:

Creative Thinking Prompt: On The Spot Inventions

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Creative Thinking Prompt: On The Spot Inventions

1) Collect 5-10 items from your recycling bin. Make sure the items are clean.

2) Take a walk around your home, collecting 5 nature items. Don’t pluck any living plants or animals.

3) Gather items that attach such as glue, paper clips, rubber bands, tape, etc.

4) Spread out all your items so you can observe them. Write down your observations that intrigue you or cause you to wonder.

5) Combine nature and recycled items together to form a new invention. Like a puzzle, imagine these items fitting together. Sketch how these items might go together.

6) Take your chosen items and begin putting them together. You may notice that they don’t fit like you thought they would. That’s okay. Try something else. Imagine something else.

7) Inventions serve a purpose. What is the purpose of your invention? What can it do?

For more ideas on inventing, visit Scholastic:


“Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved A Mystery That Baffled All Of France”

During the American Revolution, in 1776, Ben Franklin traveled to France to gain support for America.


The King of France asked the ever curious Ben Franklin to investigate Dr. Messmer, who had claimed to discover a new energy force that could heal people.


Using the scientific method, Ben discovered that Dr. Messmer was a fraud and his force didn’t exist.


Through many of his own experiments, Ben Franklin developed the steps for the Scientific Method.


Author Mara Rockliff layers her story with history, mystery and science. At the back of the book, explanation is given about the Scientific Method as well as new science discoveries – hypnosis, the placebo effect and how the mind can actually help a person heal. This book promotes the discovery process, creative thinking, STEM, and experimenting.

TITLE: Mesmerized

AUTHOR: Mara Rockliff


PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press, 2015


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: discovery process, creative thinking, experimenting

I’d like to give a Shout Out to my friend, fellow blogger and writer, Beth Anderson, for introducing me to Mesmerized. Beth is also a former teacher. Please visit her blog at


1) What do you wonder about? Write a hypothesis and conduct an experiment of your own using the steps of the Scientific Method to discover more about your wonder.

2) Throughout the story, French words are spoken. Using a French dictionary, look up these conversational phrases and words to find their meanings.

Mon chér


Au contraire

Je ne sais pas!

What other French phrases or words would you like to know?


To learn more about author Mara Rockliff, visit:

To learn more about illustrator Iacopo Bruno, visit:

What Can You Do For Our Planet Earth?

What Can You Do For Our Planet Earth?


What Can You Do With Only One Shoe? Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent by Simon and Sheryl Shapiro wrote poems about how people took ordinary objects and reused them as new inventions like a worn shoe as a birdhouse or an old tractor tire as a watering pond for cattle.


“One Shoe”

Creative Thinking Prompt: Do something kind for the Earth today. What can you do with recyclable items like plastic bottles? Write a poem about your new invention or design.

Think Deeper: Using a discarded book or old newspaper, cut out words that interest. Then rearrange those words to form a poem. Glue your poem onto a sheet of paper. Don’t forget to title it.