Creative Problem Solvers

posted Sep 14, 2014, 5:22 AM by
Over the past decade the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been working to help educators meet the needs of policymakers and industry with the goal of preparing students to be successful in the modern workplace.  Another goal of this movement is to foster creativity and innovation in industry and to equip the next generation with the skills they will need to face the challenges of the 21st century.

One of the top skills identified by the “captains of industry” is the ability to do creative problem solving using collaboration.  ISR’s Expected School wide Learning results list includes the statement, “An ISR student is a CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVER.” You have probably seen the little mouse hovering over the cheese in a poster that graces all of our classrooms.

Children are, by nature, creative problem solvers. Anyone who has ever come into the kitchen and found a preschooler with a chair pulled up to the counter wrist deep in the cookie jar is a witness to this. The question is: what can we do to foster this trait and to help children learn to collaborate with others while they solve problems? Too often we thwart creative problem solving and collaboration by offering easy answers.


At home and at school we can foster creative problem solving by answering children’s questions with additional questions that will lead to the child’s own discovery of a solution.  “Why do YOU think it doesn’t get cold here in the winter like it did back home?” When the child comes up with a hypothesis, wrong or right, helping him or her to test and their idea is a great way to respond (although it is much easier to just give an answer).

“Can you build a model of the earth and the sun using this ball and a flashlight to check this out?” Inviting children to research and collaborate (Can you look this up yourself and let me know what you find? Can you ask your sister for help with this?) is also a great. Knowing and using specialized resources in the world (including other people), and being willing to share the discovery process with others is a key component to creative problem solving.  The “how and why” questions won’t stop coming and we don’t want them to. But responding with a thoughtful pause and another questions goes a long way to helping children find their own answers and will keep that curiosity alive while building skills and confidence.

For more information on 21st Century Skills please check out