There’s a lot of discussion today about problem-based learning and project-based learning. Perhaps many of you have the same visceral reaction to the thought of starting a long-term project or turning learning into a complex problem solving task? How many of us get out of bed in the morning and say, “Boy I hope I have a big problem or project to work on today?” Instead, most of wake up and think, “Hope today is smooth sailing!” (1)

Packed To-do Lists

The reality is that most of your days are already packed with full to-do lists. And if you look closely at what’s on your list, you find that some are stand-alone items and some are pieces or parts of much larger projects/problems. Yesterday our list included designing a greeting card and figuring out the bathroom configuration for our new condo. The greeting card design was a simple task (product) with a short timeline. The bathroom design represented a definitive product that was part of a much bigger long-term project. 

Product-based Learning

At Curiosita, we help parents and educators create product-based learning environments to support the development of life-long creative skills. Offering product options allows learners to make personalized choices and provides opportunities to hone creative skills in areas that may someday become professional passions. And doesn’t it feel a bit more manageable to plan for a series of products? As a science teacher, Patti taught content accompanied by Tic-Tac-Toe boards of product options for students. Here’s a sample Tic-Tac-Toe board for the 8th grade Frozen Worlds investigation of Antarctica.

Tic-Tac-Toe Profession Boards

Let’s take a closer look at the Frozen Worlds Tic-Tac-Toe board. Hidden within each block are the professions of: naturalist, author, photographer, game coder, comedian, and graphic artist. Each one giving learners creative product experiences within a variety of unique professions. Providing the time to “play and produce” in a variety of genres is fertile ground for the growth of imagination and creative skills.

Project: A Series of Products

A series of products can be viewed as parts or pieces of much larger projects. Within this framework, each learner meticulously completes their task (product) - contributing to the final production (project). For instance, in Patti’s science class all students presented their Frozen Worlds products at a school-wide fair showcasing work from all content areas with supporting productions from the music and art departments.

Chief Curiosity Officer

Taking this a step further, the production of a movie could be viewed as a series of products assigned for the "greater good" of completing the film . What more creative endeavor could we consider than the recent production of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Each player played their part, while George Lucas’s legacy of the Star Wars epics inspired them to reach for new creative heights. We think of George Lucas as a “Chief Curiosity Officer” (2). This is a title we would like to bestow on all educators who use product-based learning to pique students' curiosities.

Dreams to Reality

Today there is an explosion of “in with the new and out with the old” as we see jobs disappear and new ones appear. And isn’t it interesting to look at all of the ones listed at the end of movies like the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Here’s a few you can add to your Tic-Tac-Toe offerings from the 1,000 plus list of cast and crew: wig maker, production supervisor, draughtsman, charge hand, foley editor, explosives engineer, senior animatronic designer, compositor, best boy, costume cutter, electrician . . . click here to view complete list. Educators can make students’ future dreams a reality when they include a wide variety of product choices in their curriculum.

Stay tuned for the December 21st edition of The Creativity Crusader as we explore the creativity of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!

Creativity Tip of the Week

Providing product exploration opportunities for young learners may lead to professional life-long passions.

The Most Important Thing

  • Product-based learning is easier to implement than project/problem-based learning
  • Providing choices can lead to the discovery of passions
  • “Play and produce” time develops creative skills
  •  A series of products can culminate in a project level presentation

Thanks for reading. 

Our goal is to help as many parents and educators as we can. If you know of others interested in parenting and teaching with and for creativity please forward.

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”

- Anatole France

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(1) Shade, R., & Shade, P. (2015). Curiosita Teaching: Integrating Creativity Into All Teaching and Learning. Denver, CO: RASPO Publishing.

(2) Vander Ark, T. (December 7, 2016).