Curiosita CBL: Creativity-Based Learning

Patti Garrett Shade & Dr. Richard Shade

April 2017


“Curiosita, an insatiable curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning. The desire to know, to learn, and to grow is the powerhouse of knowledge, wisdom, and discovery.”(1)  

~ Gelb, 1998


Children’s Innate Curiosity

 Have you ever pondered, “Are the curious and creative born or made?” All parents soon discover the answer to this time worn question. Infants and toddlers are relentless in their quest to discover the world around them. They love to explore, ask questions, and are incredibly imaginative. This curiosity is the spark that ignites creativity in all of us. And as Dorothy Parker stated, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”(2) Newborns through Kindergarteners acquire enormous amounts of information by exploring and questioning the world around them. Their continuous inquisitions in try and try again scenarios lead to an explosion of creative possibilities.

A real gift to parents is to take time to view the world creatively through a fresh pair of eyes – their child’s. Recently observing a pre-school child at play with markers brought this naturally occurring phenomenon once again to the forefront of our reflections. He started by drawing with one marker and soon noticed how each marker fit into the end of the next open marker. Within a matter of minutes, he had created a sword of markers to draw with – easily switching his color scheme according to the color of the next marker in his sword.

Sadly, by the age of seven, children are using only 10% of their creative ability. Even more discouraging is that by the age of 40, adults are only 3% as creative as they were at age seven.(3) This loss of creativity and curiosity is so common in adults that we think this is a natural developmental process. The question we should be asking is, “What can we do to prevent this loss?” Or better yet, “How can we safeguard and nurture the development of children’s natural curiosity and creativity?” 

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. ‘It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,’ Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade – for whom the decline is “most serious.”(4)

The Decline or Derailing

 For the most part, our schools remain a product of tradition and history repeated over and over again. In the last decade conformity and teach-and-test have won out over curiosity, creative thinking, and problem solving in our schools. We know that children’s intellectual, social, emotional, and physical skills continue to grow through unhindered play and practice. All this happens quite naturally before entering our formal “system” of education. Then, almost like a water faucet, they are required to turn off this “learning style” when they enter school. As Sir Ken Robinson states, “Our children do not grow into creativity, they grow out of it – rather they are educated out of it.”(5)

The sad fact is that not only are our children being forced to leave their curiosity and creativity at the doorsteps of our schools, but so are our teachers. As a result, many of our famous, creative world changing entrepreneurs (Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, to name a few), “resigned” from their schooling at an early age. In fact, Einstein once said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”(6) Not every highly creative individual will have the fortitude to take the same path – possibly leaving the next Einstein undiscovered.

Global Education Horizon

The world is constantly changing, and with those ever-present changes come new problems and situations requiring new ways of thinking and accompanying new ways of teaching and learning. It is no longer a societal need to have learners with large mental storehouses of facts and figures. With the exponential multiplication of data and facts in our world today, many businesses and global leaders recognize the greater need for highly creative and intellectual risk-taking human beings.  

The good news is that our schools remain a reflection of the needs of our global society. Perhaps the most important education-related news story was from Google™. The company announced they found almost no correlation between the grades and test scores of its employees and their success on the job. So, Google™ no longer asks all its applicants to provide these things.(7) Other major businesses and corporations are following this trend. They are looking for new employees with creative skills and mindsets.

As our schools continue to reflect societal needs, we are beginning to see trends in developing creative learning environments and programs that address a more futuristic set of 21st century skills. For some this is best explained by replacing the 3 Rs of traditional education: Readin’, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic with the new 4 Cs: Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration. In the educational arena this effort is being lead by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21).(8)

We see this as the beginning of a movement, a Creativity Crusade, that will allow parents and educators to capitalize on the interests and passions of all curious creative learners in their charge. Initially this requires a cultural change in schools. It begins with relegating content acquisition to a secondary position while focusing on learner driven in-depth creative explorations. If we frame this as a more directed focus on acquiring the skillsets of the 4 Cs, we find that the most noticeable missing link in teacher training programs is how to use creativity as an instructional skill. For centuries schools have focused on content mastery, relying heavily on critical thinking and recall for testing purposes. Historically all learning has included components of communication and collaboration, but this new direction requires a more explicit purposeful plan for infusing all of the 4 Cs.

Instructional Tools and Program Resources

 In a review of the literature we find that creativity has over 112 definitions.(9) This gives the perception that it can’t be solidified as a teachable skill. We looked a bit more closely and found that each definition included one or more of the four elements listed here with creative thinking examples:

  • Fluency – many ideas (how many things can you make out of a page of 25 circles)
  • Flexibility – categories or groups of ideas (foods, flowers, space objects, etc.)
  • Originality – unique or one-of-a-kind ideas (goose bump, combined circles: eye glasses, fly swatter, cookie sheet, etc.)
  • Elaboration – adding details to ideas (18 spokes on a bicycle wheel, a globe with continents/states, birds-eye-view of a stadium with seats, etc.)

At Curiosita Teaching™ we designed a program to make these elements instructional goals - or in other words teachable. Each element can be recognized in the verbal and visual products of students in all content areas. A straightforward example of using these creative elements can be seen in assessing student’s literacy skills:

  • Fluency – number of ideas for creative writing
  • Flexibility – different writing themes and styles
  • Originality – unique writing or word usage
  • Elaboration – adding details to stories

There are many approaches to developing a culture of creativity in classrooms and in the mindsets of students. Csikszentmihalyi(10) describes the FLOW experience where he proposes engaging learners in passion areas of interest. Treffinger(11) has developed a system of creative and critical thinking tools that can be taught. The new wave of STEM, Personalized Learning, Design Thinking, Maker’s Movement, and Project/Problem-Based Learning programs focus on different approaches to the creative process. Curiosita Teaching™ offers a comprehensive approach to support the development of children’s creativity that is very complementary to any of these new initiatives. It includes the instructional strategies and curriculum design components needed so that creativity can be taught within any content area or program structure.

The Curiosita Creativity Fan Model™

The Curiosita Creativity Fan Model™ delineates practical targeted goals teachers and parents can address to teach with and for creativity. The model consists of Four Elements of Creativity (fan lights), surrounded by Seven Action Areas (fan blades). The Elements can be used in instructional design and as targets and for assessing student work. The Seven Action Areas have accompanying student and teacher goals that can be found in Curiosita Teaching: The Handbook of Instructional Strategies.(12)

Teacher Goals for the Seven Action Areas

  1. Process – teaching new thinking strategies and tools to improve creative, critical, and innovative thinking.
  2. Persistence – using innovative assessments and instructional strategies to engage students in learning opportunities that require effort, diligence, and task commitment.
  3. Product – creating a product/project-based learning environment that requires students to demonstrate learning through the development of verbal or visual products/projects.
  4. Perception – exposing students to alternative visual or verbal viewpoints or perspectives so they can acknowledge diversity in thinking and form their own conceptions.
  5. Passion – planning for a wide variety of learning explorations that address students’ strengths and interests so they can explore and discover passion areas of learning.
  6. Person – instilling in students an understanding and appreciation of the positive and negative creative behaviors and traits.
  7. Press – changing the physical, visual, verbal, social, and mental “environments” to influence students’ creative output.

Curiosita Teaching Creativity Formula

Creativity = Creative Thinking + Critical Thinking + Creative Productivity

  • We can plan for product development in all content areas to support the growth of creative skills and mindsets.
  • We can teach creative and critical thinking using innovative tools and strategies.

Curiosita Teaching offers training sessions and resources to support the efforts of parents and teachers who want to make creativity a part of all living and learning. The areas include:

  • Mindsets & Perception Resources
  • Research & Rationale Resources
  •  Learning Style Assessments
  • Creative Thinking Tools
  • Critical Thinking Tools
  • Fluency and Flexibility Activities
  • Creative Thinking Vocabulary
  • Product Planning & Assessment Graphic Organizers
  • Passion/Problem/Product-Based Learning Unit Designs
  • Think Tanks: Innovative Instructional Templates
  • Student Creativity Assessment Processes & Templates

Future Possibilities

 Our natural curiosity remains the impetus required to spark ideas and the intellectual risk-taking necessary for us to continue to live in a productive and progressive world. Our modern society is increasingly dependent on creativity and innovation to grow and prosper. For the last decade, the focus on test scores has robbed our educators of the time needed to help their students develop the lifelong creative skills. These are the skills that naturally augment student’s intelligence; forever changing how they experience and react to the world around them.

"As I look at my life today, the things that I value about myself, my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity, came from the way that I was parented and taught. And none of these qualities that I just mentioned, none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, none of these qualities that have brought me so much joy, that have made me so successful professionally, none of these qualities that make me who I am, can be tested.”(13) ~ Matt Damon, 2013

Today, with new legislation, we are beginning to see a shift away from our test-driven pedagogy. This gives teachers permission to use their innate creativity as they prepare our students for a future that is yet to be defined. This future is filled with creative challenges and opportunities that will lead our learners towards lives filled with personal and professional happiness and success. To have to suppress innate curiosity and engagement runs counter to how children and adults naturally learn. Their creativity won’t be nurtured and protected by happenstance – it’s a perishable skill.

"Education is the foundation of our democracy – the stepping-stones for our youth to reach their full potential. My own experience in public school was quite frustrating. I was often bored. Occasionally, I had a teacher who engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. Those were the teachers I really loved. I wondered, ‘Why can’t schools be engaging all the time?"(14)  ~ George Lucas, 2016

We’ve all been in classrooms where creative teachers are making this happen. Unfortunately they are still few and far between. Oftentimes, they are viewed as the outliers within their organizations. These teachers, and many of our parents (especially our homeschool parents), have naturally been a part of a movement calling for innovative education reform. They are the shining lights at the end of a long tunnel leading to what we refer to as The Creativity Crusade, a revolution sparked to nurture and protect children’s creativity.

Today, with more information and resources available, everyone can become part of this revolution. Together, we can change teaching and learning so all children can live and learn creatively. Creativity, once infused, will forever change teaching styles with lessons based upon collaborative experiences between students and teachers. It will also result in a powerful paradigm shift, focusing on what students think, what they say, how they do it, and most importantly, what they produce.

  • We believe nurturing and protecting children's creativity leads to their personal and professional happiness and success. 
  • We believe supporting and developing students’ creativity is essential to the continuous improvement of our world.

Creativity has and always will be at the heart of American culture. Unfortunately, our educational system has yet to capitalize on this amazing trait that has been associated with our country since its inception. It’s a daily part of all our lives, yet almost seems to be taken for granted until we stop for a moment and reflect on the great works of some of our icons: Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Princess Diana, Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, Adele, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Johnny Depp, and Coco Chanel.

These individuals did not obtain notoriety or fame due to an intense and repetitive focus on mathematical and literacy skills while attending school. For some, it was actually the act of leaving school that gave them the freedom needed for their creative genius to grow.

For decades, creativity has languished in the political and educational arenas.  It occasionally survived in classrooms when highly creative students found mentors or like-minded teachers.

  • We empower teachers, with creativity tools and strategies, so they may bring back to teaching what has been missing with the over assessment and intense instructional focus on literacy and mathematical skills.
  • We empower parents, with creativity tools and strategies, so they may bring back to parenting what has often been “put on the back shelf” in our hectic 21st century, over-scheduled lifestyles. 

We are dedicated to providing the support and resources needed so that creativity can thrive in all “home rooms” and in all classrooms. And to that end, we are on a Creativity Crusade for every child, every student . . . EVERY DAY!


1 Gelb, M. (1998). How to think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven steps to genius everyday. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

2 Parker, D.

3 Biech, E. (1996). The ASTD trainer’s sourcebook: Creativity and innovation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

4 Bronson, P. & Merryman, A. (2010, July 10). The creativity crisis. Newsweek.

5 Robinson, K. (2016). Creative schools: The grassroots revolution that’s transforming education. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

6 Einstein, A.

7 Nisen, M. (2013, June 19). Google HR boss explains why GPA and most interviews are useless. Business Insider.

8 Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2003). Learning for the 21st century: A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Tucson, AZ.

9 Treffinger, D. (1996). Creativity, creative thinking and critical thinking: In search of definitions. Sarasota, FL: Center for Creative Learning.

10 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). FLOW: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

11 Treffinger, D., Isaksen, S., & Stead-Dorval, B. (2006). Creative problem solving: An introduction. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc.

12 Shade, P. & Shade, R. (2014). Curiosita Teaching: Handbook of Instructional Strategies. Denver, CO: RASPO Publishing.

13 Damon, M. (2011). Matt Damon's Powerful Education Speech at the Save Our Schools Rally in DC. Huffington Post. Posted: 07/31/2011.

14 Lucas, G. (2016). A word from George Lucas: Edutopia’s role in education. Posted 04/03/2016.