Creative Thinking

Creative Thinking involves the generation of ideas and concepts that are novel and innovative in the context in which they are generated, reflection on their value to the individual or others, and the development of chosen ideas and concepts from thought to reality.

People who think creatively are curious and open-minded, have a sense of wonder and joy in learning, demonstrate a willingness to think divergently, and are comfortable with complexity. A creative thinker reflects on existing ideas and concepts; uses imagination, inventiveness, resourcefulness, and flexibility; and is willing to take risks to go beyond existing knowledge.

Creating and innovating

Students get creative ideas that are novel and have value. An idea may be new to the student or their peers, and it may be novel for their age group or the larger community. It may be new to a particular context or absolutely new. The idea or product may have value in a variety of ways and contexts – it may be fun, provide a sense of accomplishment, solve a problem, be a form of self-expression, provoke reflection, or provide a new perspective that influences the way people think or act. It can have a positive impact on the individual, classmates, the community, or the world.                                                                                                                                       

Generating and incubating  

Students may generate creative ideas through free play, engagement with other’s ideas, or consideration of a problem or constraint, and/or because of their interests and passions. New ideas and inspirations can spontaneously arise from the unconscious mind, but students can also develop strategies to facilitate the generation of ideas – learning a lot about something, engaging in a period of reflection, providing time for incubation, and doing relaxing or automatic activities to quiet their conscious mind. The capacity for creative thinking expands as individuals increase their range of ideas and concepts to recombine them into new ideas. The ideas available as raw material for creative thinking depend on previous experiences and learning, as well as students’ cultural legacies.

Evaluating and developing

Students reflect on their creative ideas in order to decide which ones to develop. They consider whether their idea would ultimately support the well-being of self, community, and the land. They do this with a sense of place and taking into consideration unintended consequences for other living things and our planet. If they decide to develop an idea, they work individually and/or collaboratively to refine it and work to realize it. This may require accessing the knowledge of those who have gone before, building the necessary skills, sustaining perseverance, using failure productively over time, and reflecting on process and results. It may also require the generation of additional creative ideas to come up with solutions to problems along the way.



I get ideas when I play.

I get ideas when I use my senses to explore. My play ideas are fun for me and make me happy. I make my ideas work or I change what I am doing.


I can get new ideas or build on or combine other people’s ideas to create new things within the constraints of a form, a problem, or materials.

I can get new ideas to create new things or solve straightforward problems. My ideas are fun, entertaining, or useful to me and my peers, and I have a sense of accomplishment. I can use my imagination to get new ideas of my own, or build on other’s ideas, or combine other people’s ideas in new ways. I can usually make my ideas work within the constraints of a given form, problem, or materials if I keep playing with them.


I can get new ideas in areas in which I have an interest and build my skills to make them work.

I generate new ideas as I pursue my interests. I deliberately learn a lot about something by doing research, talking to others, or practicing, so that I can generate new ideas about it; the ideas often seem to just pop into my head. I build the skills I need to make my ideas work, and I usually succeed, even if it takes a few tries.


I can get new ideas or reinterpret others’ ideas in novel ways.

I get ideas that are new to my peers. My creative ideas are often a form of self-expression for me. I have deliberate strategies for quieting my conscious mind (e.g., walking away for a while, doing something relaxing, being deliberately playful), so that I can be more creative. I use my experiences with various steps and attempts to direct my future work.


I can think “outside the box” to get innovative ideas and persevere to develop them.

I can get new ideas that are innovative, may not have been seen before, and have an impact on my peers or in my community. I have interests and passions that I pursue over time. I look for new perspectives, new problems, or new approaches. I am willing to take significant risks in my thinking in order to generate lots of ideas. I am willing to accept ambiguity, setbacks, and failure, and I use them to advance the development of my ideas.


I can develop a body of creative work over time in an area of interest or passion.

I can get ideas that are groundbreaking or disruptive and can develop them to form a body of work over time that has an impact in my community or beyond. I challenge assumptions as a matter of course and have deliberate strategies (e.g., free writing or sketching, meditation, thinking in metaphors and analogies) for getting new ideas intuitively. I have a strong commitment to a personal aesthetic and values, and the inner motivation to persevere over years if necessary to develop my ideas.


The Core Competencies relate to each other and with every aspect of learning.

Connections among Core Competencies

The Core Competencies are interrelated and interdependent. Taken together, the competencies are foundational to every aspect of learning. Creative Thinking is intertwined with the other Core Competencies.


Creative Thinking is one of the Thinking Core Competency’s two interrelated sub-competencies, Creative Thinking and Critical and Reflective Thinking.

Creative Thinking and Critical and Reflective Thinking overlap. For example:

  • Students use critical thinking to analyze and reflect on creative ideas in order to determine whether they have value and should be developed.
  • Students engage in ongoing reflection as they develop their creative ideas.
  • Students use creative thinking to generate new ideas to solve problems and constraints that arise as they design and develop.


Creative Thinking is closely related to the two Communication sub-competencies, Communicating and Collaborating. For example:

  • Students communicate to share and build on one another’s creative ideas and collaborate to develop their creative ideas.
  • Students use creative thinking to get new ideas about how to communicate effectively.
  • Students can use creative thinking to come up with new ideas about how to distribute leadership and co-regulate group interactions as they collaborate.

Personal and Social

Creative Thinking is closely related to the three Personal and Social sub-competencies: Personal Awareness and Responsibility, Social Awareness and Responsibility, and Positive Personal and Cultural Identity. For example:

  • Students use their personal and social awareness and responsibility to decide which creative ideas have value for themselves, others, and the community.
  • Students use creative thinking to generate new ideas for ways to exercise personal and social responsibility.
  • Students often see their chosen forms of creative expression as an important part of their identity.


Connections with areas of learning

Creative Thinking is embedded within the curricular competencies of the concept-based, competency-driven curriculum. Curricular competencies are focused on the “doing” within the area of learning and include skills, processes, and habits of mind required by the discipline. For example, the Creative Thinking sub-competency can be seen in the following Big Ideas in Arts Education:

  • Creative expression develops our unique identity and voice. (Arts Education 2)
  • Artists experiment in a variety of ways to discover new possibilities. (Arts Education 4)
  • Creative growth requires patience, readiness to take risks, and willingness to try new approaches. (Arts Education 8)

I Am from the Leeson and Faithful Family

Students write their own “I Am From” poems and then created a mixed media self-portrait that reflected the imagery and information in their poems.


The Nail Salon

A child and her friend create an elaborate series of activities, over several weeks,  connected to an imaginary nail salon.


Artistic Explorations of Identity

Over time, a student develops a body of creative work exploring the theme of identity.


Using Poetry as a Medium for Personal Awareness

A student creates a poem to show her growth in personal awareness.


Artistic Representation of Hotels

During an architecture project, a student uses found materials to represent that hotels simultaneously act as public space and private refuge.


Inquiry: How Do Artists Best Express How They Think or Feel?

A student inquired into how artists express themselves, and produced an authentic piece of her own.


Duct Tape Wallets

A student makes duct tape wallets as a hobby.


"Steal" a Story

A student retells the story of Humpty Dumpty as a news item.


Designing Your Own Robot

After doing a report on robots and assembling a robot from a kit, a student designs his own robot.


Investigation Workbook in Visual Arts

A student creates an Investigation Workbook of artistic research, reflection, and original work.


Building a Block Tower

A student explains how she is building her tower of blocks.


LEGO Creations

Students create different objects with the same Lego pieces.


Speaker's Corner Rant

A student creates a Speaker’s Corner rant that has an emotional impact on her peers.