Tag 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.



 Image: thecreatorsproject.vice.com

 Image: www.babble.com


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: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2012/02/glow-in-dark-water-beads.html

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: A Catching Net


Creative Thinking Prompt: A Catching Net

The purpose of a net is to catch things. What type of things could I catch with a net? Brainstorm a list of ways that a net is used. Invent a special net to catch an imaginary creature. Sketch what your net looks like and how it works. What type of material is your net made from? How big or small is your net? Is it a particular color? Why?

Think Deeper: What other purpose could your invented net be used for?

Creative Thinking Prompt: A 40 Fruit Tree


an artist rending of the 40 fruit tree

Creative Thinking Prompt: If you could grow forty anythings on a tree, what would you grow? How would you grow it? What is the purpose of your tree?

Sam Van Aken, a Syracuse art professor, started an art project using a living tree that became a research project and a form of conservation to preserve ancient fruits from around the world. His 40 fruit tree, “an entire orchard in one,” is a single tree, which produces forty different varieties of stone fruit. Stone fruit such nectarines, cherries, plums, and peaches have pits. Although grafting, which is a two to three year process, is a common practice for growers, this 40 fruit tree may be the only one of its kind.




Creative Thinking Prompt: Caterpillar Inspired Invention


Creative Thinking Prompt: Caterpillar Inspired Robot


Curling softly, leaping, flipping

Self-propelling forward zipping

Wheeling wingless, Rolling limbless

Creepy-crawly somersaulty


Sparks idea – Insect robot

Search and rescue find the X-spot

Wheeling, flipping, rolling, zipping,

Creepy-crawly somersaulty


© Ann Kelley 2016

When I was researching the subject of caterpillars to write this poem, I came across the Crambidae rolling caterpillar family which inspired the movement for a search and rescue robot.

To learn more about this robot, visit:


To see the caterpillar and robot in action, visit the Youtube video links.

CATERPILLAR:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZe9qWi-LUo

ROBOT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqt4EIQRwxk

THINK DEEPER: What other insects have inspired inventions? Observe an insect in its natural habitat. Sketch the insect. What trait or behavior of the insect lends itself to an invention? Sketch an idea for an invention incorporating the insect trait/behavior.

PHOTO from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/flexible-rolling-robot-copies-caterpillars-escape-mechanism-video/ and courtesy of Huai-Ti Lin

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: http://www.origami-instructions.com


To learn more about author/illustrator Michael G. LaFosse, visit: http://www.origamido.com

Harold’s Circus

Harold's Circusbookcover

“Harold’s Circus”

Harold and his purple crayon are back with a new adventure – the circus. Come along as Harold performs circus acts from bravest lion tamer to trapeze artist to tightrope walker to human cannonball.


Oops! What will Harold draw to save himself as he tumbles through air?

This story promotes creativity, imagination, discovery and humor.

TITLE: Harold’s Circus

AUTHOR: Crockett Johnson

ILLUSTRATOR: Crockett Johnson

PUBLISHER: Harper Collins Publishers 1987, 1959


CREATIVE COMPONENTS: creativity, imagination


1) What do you think would happen to the story if Harold used a color other than purple? Whey do you think Crockett Johnson chose to use a purple crayon?

2) If you were a circus performer, which act would you perform and why?

3) Spend some time researching different circus acts. What is it about these acts that draw an audience’s attention? Invent a new circus act.


To learn more about author/illustrator Crockett Johnson, visit: