Chief Curiosity Officers

Chief Curiosity Officers

We know most of your teaching days are already packed with full to-do lists. When you look closely at what’s on your list, do you find that some items are stand-alone items and some are pieces or parts of much larger projects or problems. Isn’t this exactly what it looks like inside most professional undertakings? Aren’t professions supposed to be the pathways our students choose for things they are curious about? And if they get it right (make good choices) those professions will be fertile ground for demonstrating their creativity skills and mindsets. So let’s help them get ready!

Product-Based Learning

At Curiosita, we support educators in designing creative product-based learning environments in any content area. Just the “ticket” to get students interest piqued in developing life-long creative skills. Some product opportunities will be umbrellaed under larger inquiry-based themes: STEM, Maker Movement, Project-Based and Problem-Based learning. But in reality, no matter the theme or content area, your students will definitely be involved in working on several different products. 

Tic-Tac-Toe Profession Boards

As a science teacher, Patti taught Antarctica content and designed Tic-Tac-Toe boards of product options for students. 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.

Frozen Worlds Tic-Tac-Toe

Projects: A Series of Products

Doesn’t it feel a bit more manageable to plan for a series of products than trying to get your head around organizing a much larger project? Offering product options allows learners to make personalized choices and hone creative skills while being immersed in areas that may someday become professional passions. A series of products viewed as parts or pieces of much larger projects helps these tasks become more manageable – in other words, doable. This can be further organized into individual, partner, or small group  work assignments. Participating at different levels of organization gives each learner a clear sense of their contributions to the final production. Sometimes these can become school-wide or grade level celebrations. In Patti’s science class all students presented their Frozen Worlds products at an Antarctic Fair showcasing work from all content areas with supporting productions from the music and art departments. 

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 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Here’s a few you can add to your choice 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’ dreams a reality when they include a wide variety of product choices in their curriculum.

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. Again, involving individual, partner, and small group contributions to complete passion projects.. So, we invite you to become the Chief Curiosity Officer of your classroom. This is a title we would bestow on all educators who use product-based learning to pique students curiosities and provide product development pathways as avenues of expressions of students’ creativity.

For Your Classroom

Providing product exploration opportunities for young learners may lead to professional life-long interests and passions. Start building your own product choice lists to help students expand their understanding of what a product looks like. Build on their curiosities!

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Providing choices can lead to the discovery of interests and passions.
  • “Play and Produce” time develops creative skills.
  • A series of products can culminate in project-level work.
  • Project-based learning can include individual, partner, and small group work.
  • Product-based learning is easier to implement than project or problem-based learning.
  • Write your new job description . . . Chief Curiosity Officer!

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

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti

Atlanta Educators Go Creative

Atlanta Educators Go Creative

There’s nothing more rewarding than working with a group of educators excited and motivated to bring creativity into the lives of their students. When we returned from our second session with Atlanta Public Schools Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) elementary teachers, we were amazed to see what they had accomplished in just two short months since our first training. 

We held a “Share Fair” during lunch so teachers could display and discuss the products and strategies they used to help students learn using creative strategies and tools. 

“I started with Think Tanks templates. My students loved it!”

“Every day in my classroom now begins with a creative brain exercise.”

“It was so easy to start implementing the Curiosita strategies.”

The Magnifying Power of SCAMPER

We challenged the teachers to use S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to create a classroom of their dreams. In 14 minutes they shared 137 ideas for improving the design of classrooms! Here are some of the unique ideas generated by a group of 75 enthusiastic teachers: 

Substitute knee desks, wobble chairs, or treadmill desks for student desks.

Combine computers with student desks and have popup computers on desktops.

Adapt all bulletin boards to be digital to display student work products.

Magnify the size and function of interactive white board. Make them wall size and use them flexibly as Lego walls, touch screens, and virtual reality screens.

Put the closets in classroom to another use, such as making it a recording studio.

Eliminate all outlets and create virtual power pads on each student desk.

Reverse ceiling tiles to be drop-downs that become interactive learning stations at the touch of a button.

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a powerful checklist tool created by Bob Eberle. You can use this tool with students to magnify and extend the number and types of ideas generated from any brainstorming session. The letter prompts can be used for any problem-solving situation:

  • Improving a relationship 
  • Designing a new product
  • Creating a better organization 
  • Decorating a room
  • Fixing something broken

For Your Classroom

We love it when teachers use their creativity in our session feedback forms. Here are a few of our favorite “Kreative Komments” from Atlanta. 

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Drawing and sketching thoughts and ideas is also a fun way to get your students inspired to share more creatively with you and their peers. Drawings could capture their day, thoughts about events or happenings, or even . . . content reflections!

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Using tools improves creative output.
  • S.C.A.M.P.E.R extends and enhances thinking.
  • Creative teaching energizes, engages, and excites educators.
  • There are many easy ways to “dip your toe” into teaching with and for creativity.

“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” ~Jean Piaget

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti

Creative Inspirations & Explorations: 5 Ways to Jumpstart Mindsets

Creative Inspirations & Explorations: 5 Ways to Jumpstart Mindsets

In Curiosita Creativity-Based Learning we talk about making creativity tangible and teachable. It  begins with new mindset interactions. Listening and looking at things differently. When you ask your students to talk about creativity, do they get stuck in conversations involving drawing, dancing, or performing? Do they see the creative cool things around them everywhere? Do they recognize the creativity behind all the big innovations? Do they believe they are creative? Do they think of creativity as something fun to do after all the learning?

Do you believe you can make a difference in how your students understand creativity?

What we are talking about here is shifting students’ mindsets. Shaping students’ mental and emotional internal environments, as well as their physical external environments, to foster creativity. Sounds a bit daunting when we put it that way. Right?

For Your Classroom

Here’s a simple and fun place to start working on creativity mindsets. Designate a bulletin board for the display titled Creative Inspirations and Explorations. Begin by asking students to find interesting photos. Ones that “speak to them” about creativity. Tell them to think of this as building a creativity wall collage together. One that can go on and on and on! Emphasize they are searching for images that excite them, or as we like to say, “Knock My Socks Off (K.M.S.O.).”  

You will notice the lines begin to blur between environments as you design your classroom (external environment) in fun, funky, and flexible ways to get brains (internal environment) churning with ideas and possibilities.

Five Mindset Conversation Starters:

  1. What is Creativity: Have students share their thoughts about their favorite photo. Why is it creative?
  2. Ideas, Designs & Stories: Encourage everyone to go to the Creative Inspirations and Explorations bulletin board when looking for fodder for an idea, design, or story they are pondering. 
  3. Arts & Sciences: Designate themes: science, space, general creativity, music, etc. Challenge students to recognize creativity in both Arts & Sciences.
  4. Creativity in Everyday Life: Select a photo and have students write for one minute using a creative comment stem like: How might we? What if? I wonder . . . as journal prompts?
  5. K.M.SO. Creativity: Have students randomly select a letter of the alphabet and search for something creative that begins with that letter. Encourage them to find ones that K.M.S.O. to share!

Plan for frequent meetings at the Creative Inspirations & Explorations wall collage to chat about creativity! Be sure to share some of your favorites!

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Creativity is tangible and teachable!
  • Creative, cool things are all around you.
  • You can help shape your students external and internal environments.

“Everything is interesting. Look closer.”

~ Anonymous

Live, learn, and lead creatively,

Patti & Rick

It’s a Sign: Opening the Doors of Perception

It’s a Sign: Opening the Doors of Perception

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a . . . ?

Nature gives us glorious creative visions with the coming of each season. Spring is an especially enchanting display of objects that catch our eye and capture our imaginations. We took this inspiring photo as we walked through Denver Botanic Gardens. When we approached the tree from a distance it looked like a tree full of roosting birds. As we moved nearer, we could see that it was an azalea tree in full bloom with white flowing petals that looked like cats, helicopter blades, and jellyfish. What are some of your perceptions?

What is it?

What is perception, and what does it have to do with creativity? Perhaps a helpful way to think of perception is to look at some synonyms: insight, awareness, acuity, discernment, observation, and viewpoint. All may have a different emphasis, but they are similar in meaning. 

Creativity involves changes in perception; in other words, a newfound way of looking at or viewing something. Perception allows us to look at something and see something different than that seen by others. This is a prerequisite skill to being able to produce at any level of creativity. In our classrooms we noticed that students who were more flexible in changing their perceptions demonstrated higher levels of creativity . . . it’s a sign!

Mental Filters or Perceptual Blocks?

To be more efficient and effective thinkers, we all have mental filters that help us disregard or ignore minor stimuli in our environment. If this did not happen, we would have to pay attention to every minor detail, we would perhaps be prone to sensory overload, and we would never get anything done. However, this very system that facilitates successful thinking often interferes with creative thinking. 

Adams (2001) in his classic book Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, refers to these natural filters as perceptual blocks. They can be cognitive, emotional, or environmental in nature and include:

  • Fear of taking an intellectual risk.
  • Fear of making a mistake or failing.
  • No appetite for chaos or ambiguity.
  • Fear of the unknown or a need for security. 

  • Judging, stereotypes, and preconceived ideas. 

  • Fear of criticism, ridicule, rejection, or just being different.
  • Acquiescing to: “The way it’s supposed to be” and “The way it has always been” or “If it ain’t broke . . .” 
  • Clinging to reason and logic versus imagination and innovation.


Past Predictions of the Future

Take a moment to consider another category of perceptual roadblocks to creativity in these Past Predictions of the Future. It is amazing to look back at the predictions made by some experts in their fields and see how unrealistic and even laughable they are today. Epicetus stated it somewhat differently, “What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.” 

What if everyone believed the following and acted accordingly: 

  • “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” -Western Union internal memo (1876) 
  • “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office (1899) 
  • “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman, IBM (1943) 
  • “There is no reason for an individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olsen, President, DEC (1977) 
  • “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” – Bill Gates, Microsoft (1981) 

Logic vs. Perception

Edward de Bono states, “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” This makes sense, as the emphasis is traditionally placed in the secure truth of logic rather than the ambiguity and capriciousness of perception. In other words, we often continue to see the world as we initially perceive it, not the way it can be. 

For Your Classroom

Here is the dilemma. Our practical and useful mental filters can get in the way and become perceptual blocks when we need to think creatively. If we want our students to learn to think more creatively, the major challenge is to teach them ways to temporarily suspend or ignore these perceptual blocks. 

One simple activity is looking at photos like the one above, the clouds or stars in the sky, and creating your own interpretations. You can find our favorites in The Curiosita Handbook of Instructional Strategies and by Googling divergent thinking activities.

Flexibility exercises must be practiced daily to produce changes in the malleability (stretching) of the brain. This is an essential trait of the creative mind. It opens the doors to changes in perceptions

The ability to form diverse perceptions is one of the essential steps in becoming a more creative thinker. Being aware of the role perception plays in our creative thinking, and knowing we have the ability to actively or intentionally change our perception, is part of the growth mindset of creativity. We can teach students through frequent practice to throw off their mental chains and open their minds to improved creative thinking. 

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Creativity involves changes in perception.
  • The ability to form perceptions is an essential step in becoming a more creative thinker.
  • Perceptual blocks interfere with creative thinking.
  • We have tools to help us temporarily ignore or suspend perceptual blocks.

. . . and finally we will leave you with a new perception of the beautiful blooming azalea flower.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. 

~ Aldous Huxley

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti

UN Proclamation:  Creativity and Innovation Day April 21 – Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday!

UN Proclamation: Creativity and Innovation Day April 21 – Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday!

Ambassador I. Rhonda King, Permanent Representative to the United Nations from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, delivered a speech to the General Assembly in support for World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21. This resolution was voted to become a UN Day of Observance.

It is so decided . . .

World Creativity and Innovation Day is proclaimed by the UN! “Few attributes of human performance have as much impact on our lives and our world as creativity. Outstanding achievements in the Arts and Sciences depends on creativity. Creativity has been linked to the development of new social institutions and the leadership of . . . Ambassador Kings’s speech at the UN April 21, 2017.

link     https://vimeo.com/215045988

For Your Classroom

As educators, we are thrilled this has happened in our lifetimes. Creativity is the essence of human potential. Waiting to be realized in every student! This proclamation will open many classroom doorways and pave the way for creativity to be seen as essential mindsets, toolsets, and skillsets for all students. 

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Creativity changes children’s lives. 
  • Creativity changes the world. 
  • Creativity . . . for every student, every teacher, every, every parent, every school . . . Every Day!

“Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything. Life is about creating yourself and creating things.” ~ Bob Dylan

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti

Screwdrivers to Magic Carpet Rides

Screwdrivers to Magic Carpet Rides

Originally published in Innovate!

Issue 5 March/April 2019

Grandpa was in the garage working on building a dollhouse when eight-year-old granddaughter Ella walked in and asked, “Can I help?” “Sure,” he replied. “Why don’t you hand me a screwdriver?” She paused for a moment, her eyes sparkled, and she asked, “Do you want the “plus or minus?” Grandpa got a puzzled look on his face and then broke into a big grin and said, “Oh, I get it – please pass the “Plus” screwdriver!” Ella said, “See, this one looks like the plus sign we use when we are doing addition in school and the other one reminds me of the minus sign we use for subtraction.” Grandpa’s eyes sparkled and he said, “Wow, Ella that’s really fun thinking – from now on that’s what we’ll call the Phillips and Flathead screwdrivers!” 

Ella’s association of a screwdriver with the mathematical symbols of minus (-) and plus (+) represents an individual level of creative thinking. What’s important to realize is that every time a student, anywhere around the globe, has the same “aha” moment with screwdrivers, they are demonstrating the same individual level of creatively. Perhaps you might wonder if this is a novel or unique way of thinking. You can test it out by asking a group of adults how many have made the plus and minus association with screwdrivers – prepare to be surprised!

As students continue to make creative connections, their individual expressions of creativity may rub off on classmates. Team or group levels of creativity may then someday lead to innovations in organizations, countries, and even the world. As you can see, there is an “exponential potential” in recognizing and finding value in creativity at all levels. Kaufman and Beghetto (2009) formally identify four developmental levels of creativity:

Mini-c: Any time one attempts a new task, a level of creativity is involved. What one creates is not revolutionary, but new and meaningful to them. Example: Your first time sketching a picture. You feel pretty good about it – perhaps feeling some degree of self-satisfaction.

Little-c: Improvements are made in your skill level and content, and the creation may be of some value to others. Example: You share your sketch with others who encourage you through feedback.

Pro-c: The ability to be creative at a professional level. You would have had many years of practice and training. Example: You take classes and enter works in juried shows. Eventually your works hang in galleries and you are recognized by art experts and critics as being creative. 

Big-C: You and your body of work are now remembered in history books. Example: Your works hang in famous galleries and are regularly discussed by experts. Decades from now, you will be considered one of the greatest artists of all time. 

Although well intentioned, viewing all interactions as “teachable moments” derails creative exploration. The moment Ella picked up the screwdriver, Grandpa could have said, “Now Ella, we call that a Phillips head screwdriver.” The conversation, the thinking, and the creativity would have ended right there – a sure fire method to weaken the curiosity-creativity link. So, the next time you are about to provide your student with a “correct answer” question, stop and consider asking one of these provocative questions:

  • Would it be possible . . .?
  • Have you explored . . .?
  • What if . . .?
  • How else might . . .?
  • I wonder . . .?
  • Wouldn’t it be funny if . . .?
  • What other . . .?
  • Can you imagine . . .?

Creativity often begins when simple observations meet up with child-like curiosity. This open-mindedness, coupled with a desire to learn more about the world, changes the way children interact with their environment and each other. Encouraging comments like the ones Grandpa shared with Ella nurture and support the development of future “curiosity-creativity links.” Grandpa’s modeling of his own creativity in his “doll-house” workshop will forever be imprinted in Ella’s memories as a fun and engaging moment. And even more importantly, when Ella enters the world of work in 2030, she will have practice using the mindsets and skillsets needed to be creatively productive and successful.

For Your Classroom

The conversations that spin off from the provocative questions mentioned above strengthen the curiosity-creativity link – opening doorways to wonder and exploration. Here’s one you might try with your students. Ask them, “How many ways might you come to school?” Note the word might. What a difference in excitement and engagement levels when the word might is emphasized! It affords the freedom, yes, even the permission, to think creatively. Our favorite response so far – a magic carpet ride!

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • There are four developmental levels of creativity.
  • Well intentioned “teachable moments” can derail creative exploration.
  • Asking provocative questions can strengthen the “curiosity-creativity link.”

“Discovery (creativity) consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”

~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti