2016 Creative Power Day Workshop Activities and Script 

Based on feedback and observations, the set of activities and script for the first Creative Power Day has changed slightly from the 2016 format. Below is the original outline, posted here for reference only.

A note to facilitators:
Think of the workshop as having 3 chapters. The first chapter is the introduction, framing, and first 2 exercises (Activity 1 and 2); in this time you are establishing (defining and making personal) the concept of Creative Power and seeding the longterm optimistic message around creativity in the participants. The second chapter is the group exercise (Activity 3), and it is all about reducing anxiety around creativity, and bolstering curiosity. The last chapter is the shortest but critical in that you are concretizing the main messages of Creative Power Day (5 bullets at the end of this page!). 


5 minutes
- Introduce yourself. Your first name, you live in the community, and you are here because you are a [parent, designer, activist, etc] and you believe in the idea that helping kids [like you!] learn to use their Creative Power will make them better at everything they try, from school work and sports, to becoming leaders in business, or government, or the arts, or in anything they want to be.

- Thank you. Thank the teacher and school for the invitation to do this workshop, and thank the students for spending the next hour working with you and each other on building their Creative Power muscles. 


5 minutes (suggested script)
- What is Creative Power? Creative Power is about developing empathy (understanding others better), opening your mind to new ideas, and making you better able to take action. We try to build the muscles of Creative Power in ourselves and our communities so that we can solve big, tough challenges that we all face in our world. Creative Power isn't one single thing – it's a mixture of skills and tools and philosophies from engineering, business, and creative arts. A little bit of all the best stuff!

- Creative Power Day! Today is Creative Power Day! In countries around the world, hundred of students just like you are participating in their classrooms in Creative Power Day. The big idea for having one single day a year focused on Creative Power is to build a kind of a movement, where kids your age build up their muscles for solving problems so they can do things better now and in the future.

You are going to be the next generation of leaders in the government and in businesses. You might create the next really cool startup that makes a cure for cancer, or build a new technology that stops the earth from getting warmer, or design a new kind of house that ends homelessness.

All of these amazing possibilities are in each one of you -- not just the "smart" kids or the "creative" kids or the ones who talk the most. All of you have the Creative Power to make the world a better place! Today, we're going to do 2 short activities and 1 longer one to start building your Creative Power muscles.

5 minutes

- Show, don't tell. These two activities hit on two of the main points of Creative Power -- seeing things from another perspective, and being okay with a little bit of discomfort become that's when new ideas often sprout up: 

  • Activity 1: Circles in the Air (follow the detailed instructions here) from the Systems Thinking Playbook. Goal of the the exercise is to show that if you look at something (a problem, a person, a situation) from a different perspective/viewpoint, it can look quite different. This exercise is about developing empathy.
  • Activity 2: Arms Crossed (follow the detailed instructions here) from the Systems Thinking Playbook.
    Goal of the exercise is to understand that changing our habits (this is a physical metaphor for cognitive habits) can be uncomfortable or awkward but that's usually a sign of growth and learning. This exercise is about becoming open to new ideas.

- Summarize. Review the key learnings: 1) changing perspective and habits makes things look different and helps us image other people's perspectives; 2) the surprise and discomfort we felt when we did these exercises is the beginning of our creative muscles being exercised. It's a good thing! And it helps open us to new ideas (our own and others).


20 minutes
- Brainstorming and Rapid Prototyping. This simple exercise is designed to train participants in problem-solving iteratively, building on the ideas of others, working within constraints, seeing the connections between disparate ideas, promoting cooperation, and cultivating a bias toward action by creating a simple prototype.

  • Activity 3: Ready, Set, Design (follow the detailed instructions here) from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Small groups of 3-4 students are given an open-ended problem statement and a limited set of supplies, and asked to brainstorm ideas and create a simple physical example of how their solutions could work.


15 minutes
- Sharing outputs and discussing learnings. Each team very briefly shares their prototype and one lesson they learned. (The teacher could follow up on the threads of these discussions after workshop if robust themes emerge.)

- Prompting discussion. The facilitator may draw out discussion with questions like: Did you notice the way the question was asked on the challenge card ("Imagine a new way to clean your teeth" vs "Design a toothbrush)? Why do you think it was worded like that?; Did you feel nervous when you were asked to create something? When did you start to feel more comfortable?; What strategies did you use to keep moving forward even if you didn't agree with something someone in your group said?; What helped you really understand the solutions the other groups came up with?


5 minutes
- Clear takeaways! There are so many ideas and emotions that will naturally emerge from this workshop and interaction. It's important to give everyone clear and simple language they can use and remember about what happened and why it was important. It might help to explicitly bring back the concepts of seeing things from a different perspective and working with a team to real-life experiences. 

Main ideas:

  • Explore other perspectives
    Shifting your perspective helps develop empathy and inspires lots of new ideas.
  • New things don't feel like old things
    Sometimes learning something new can feel uncomfortable but it's mostly just a sign that you're growing and opening yourself to seeing things in a new way!
  • Make connections between different ideas
    When you work with other people, the goal isn't to have one idea "win," but it's to see how all of your ideas can build on each other to create something even better.
  • Build to learn, learn to build
    Visualizing your ideas by building (prototyping) or drawing them helps you think through them in different and new ways compared to using words alone. 
  • Everyone has Creative Power!
    Each one of you is creative and you can use your Creative Power to change the world!

As you are having this discussion, pass out the "Tell Us What You Learned" half sheets and have each student fill one out. 

Thank everyone, collect the half sheets, and give out the Creative Power Day buttons! (Easiest to put them in a pile on a nearby desk, showing there are different designs.) After everyone takes one, students can take a second button if they want. Give one to the teacher too!


Goal: The goal of this exercise is to demonstrate how by changing our vantage point, we may see a situation differently. By being able to hold different view points, we can develop greater compassion and also come up with new ideas.

PrepAny number of people can take part; 2-5 minutes to conduct and discuss; a pen or pencil for each person; participants should be standing and they need enough room to be able to point a pen or finger in the air.


Step 1: Ask everyone to pick up a pen (or pencil).

Step 2: Have them hold the pen straight up in the air, and pretend to draw a circle on the ceiling, in a clockwise direction. Tell them to keep drawing the circle and looking up. (For younger kids, make sure you check in to make sure they know which direction is clockwise.)

Step 3: Act out the motion with them and say, "Now slowly continue to draw the circle clockwise, bring the pen down a few inches at a time until it is in front of your face. Continue to circle the pen, and slowly bring it down until you are looking down on top of it. Continue to draw the circle while looking down on it."

Step 4: Ask the group, "What direction is the pen moving?" (It will be a counter clockwise direction at this point. If people say "clockwise," ask them to look at it again.)

Note: Some people lose the integrity of the circle as they bring it down. If you notice this ask them to start over and encourage them to practice "drawing" the circle on the ceiling several times before moving down.


Ask the group, "so what happened?" The initial responses tend to range from the insightful ("what changed is my perspective") to the incredulous and humorous. After people have had a chance to try it again, most of them will see that what changed as they brought the pen down was not the direction of the pen, but their perspective or vantage point. 

Explain that the point of the exercise in relationship to creative power is to illustrate how changing your perspective is often simpler than we might imagine. Seeing problems from multiple perspectives is essential when we are trying to solve hard problems. Having empathy is a a sign of strength and self-awareness. Also by shifting the way we see something, we are able to come up with much more interesting new ideas. 


by Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows (2001). The book is available through Chelsea Green Publishers. For an educator’s discount, contact: linda@lindaboothsweeney.net.


Adapted from The Systems Thinking Playbook (full attribution below)

Goal: The goal of this exercise is to bring to participants' attention that the often uncomfortable and awkward feelings associated with thinking differently are actually just temporary, and are a sign of growth and development.

PrepAny number of people can take part; 1-2 minutes to conduct and discuss; participants should be standing and they need a little bit of room in between each person.


Step 1: Ask the group to do the following: "Fold your arms the way you would if you were bored, with one arm naturally falling on top of the other. Look at your arms and notice which one is on top. Notice how this feels. Is it comfortable? Does it feel normal?"

Step 2: Now ask the group to uncross their arms and fold them again, the other way, with the other arm on top. "How does that feel? What do you notice?"

Here people may comment that the second way of folding arms feels "uncomfortable" or "awkward."


Talk about the physical feeling of discomfort when we cross our arms in the second way as an analogy for the emotional and cognitive experiences we have when we are learning something new. 

Point out that sometimes our need/desire for feeling comfortable and our tendency to avoid feeling awkward sometimes gets in our way of learning. Many times our greatest learnings and the times when we come up with our best ideas are when we get outside our comfort zone! 


by Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows (2001). The book is available through Chelsea Green Publishers. For an educator’s discount, contact: linda@lindaboothsweeney.net.


Adapted with permission and support from Design in the Classroom, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (full attribution below)

Goal: This simple exercise is designed to train participants in problem-solving openly, seeing connections, building on the ideas of others, promoting cooperation, and cultivating a bias toward action by creating a simple prototype.

PrepSmall groups of 3-4 students with a work surface; 20 minutes to frame the exercise and have the groups brainstorm and build their solution; each group gets a brown paper bag with everyday objects and a challenge card. 

  • Materials: Materials will be mailed to you ahead of time (please make sure you put a mailing address where a small box can be received in your facilitator form.) The materials will include fasteners (e.g. rubber bands, paper clips, string), structures (e.g. straws, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, small foam balls), surfaces (e.g. construction paper/cardboard, packing material, foil, bubble wrap, felt), paper bags for putting the materials.
  •  Challenge card: You will receive a set of challenge cards. Sample challenges:
    • Imagine a new way to collect and carry small things.
    • Imagine a new way to transport water.*
    • Imagine a new way to keep your hands warm.*
    • Imagine a new way to carry groceries up several flights of stairs.
    • Imagine a new way to create a light in a house with no electricity.
    • Imagine a new way to clean your teeth.*
    • Imagine a new way to keep pets safe.
    • Imagine a new way to stop littering in the school yard.*
    • Imagine a new way for kids to get around.

Two observations about challenge cards and small group performance: 

  • Giving the same challenge card to multiple groups adds focus and a touch of competition that is positive. On the other hand, if all the groups have different challenges, they get the benefit of exposure to questions and ideas they were not engaged with. 
  • Some of the challenge cards tend to yield more creative conversation and prototypes. This are indicated above with asterisks (*).


Step 1: Break the classroom into groups of 3-4 students. If the desks are already arranged in small huddles, make sure you mix the students up from their usual groups. Simply counting off is a quick way to organize new groups. This is something the teacher can help with. (Remind the teacher before the workshop starts that you will be doing this at about 10 minutes into the session.)

Step 2: Introduce the activity to the room by saying: “Working in small teams, every group will receive a challenge card and paper bag with a few craft supplies. The first thing you’re going to do in your group is read your challenge card aloud. Your team’s job is to find a NEW solution to that challenge using only the materials in your bag. You'll have 15 minutes to brainstorm ideas and create a prototype of your idea (remember you can't create an idea that already exists). Try to think of crazy and wild ideas -- ones that may be the opposite to the first thing that pops into your mind. At the end of the time, we'll go around the room and all the groups can describe their prototype."

Ask: "Does anyone know what a prototype is?" and gather responses briefly. Confirm with the group that a prototype is a small simple model that help visualize your ideas so you can try new things quickly. Tell them that when people make prototypes at work during creative activities like this, they show those prototypes to actual users or consumers to see how they respond and then they make them better after listen to feedback -- sometimes teams make 10 or 20 prototypes before they come up with a really strong idea!

"Remember, using your Creative Power is about trying out different things and experimenting. Most challenges – especially the really tough ones! – don't have a right or wrong answer. There is no "winner" or right answer. We all need to learn how to build our Creative Power muscles so we can experiment, and take risks, and sometimes (maybe most of the time!) fail. When we test ideas out by building them simply and fast, we learn quickly so that we can make a better version the next time."

(This is where you move the move the students from uncertainty to curiosity.)
"Before we start, let me share a secret with you. When people think of creativity and innovation, they think that someone really smart and cool is struck with something like a lightening bolt of creativity and all of a sudden they come up with the most incredible new idea. We love this story and in fact we HOPE that we're the one that comes up with the awesome idea! But guess what? That's not how great ideas are made. The way awesome new ideas come about is by working with others and  remixing and improving ideas and experiences you already love now. So in this challenge, think of things you do in your life – stuff like sports, music, technology, games, stories, crafts – and take small parts of your favorite experiences and see if you can use those to solve the challenge written on your card."

Step 3: Distribute a challenge card to each group. Instruct the group to discuss the challenge for 5 minutes. Remind the class that in each small group, their job is to listen to each other. We are not trying to find one idea in each group that "wins" the challenge of their card. We are building on each others' ideas to make something better than one person could create by themselves.

Step 4: After 5 minutes, give a paper bag to each small group. Every bag should have the same materials. Students may ask if they can use the paper bag (yes, they can – but don't offer this as an option), or if they can trade materials with other groups (no, sorry, that would take too long for this quick activity). They have 10 minutes to build their prototype. 
* Important! Please remind the students that they can ONLY use what is in their paper bag – they cannot use scissors, glue, tape, pens, markers, stickers, etc from their desks, bags, or classroom.

Step 5: Remind them of the two exercises we did at the beginning of the workshop. Try to practice shifting perspectives – imagine how someone else might think about the challenge. Also, remind them that it's okay and normal to feel a bit uncomfortable when you're trying to think of new ideas.

Step 6: Circulate the entire time to help the groups. Give a near-to-the-end-time call (~3 minutes left).

Step 7: Give each group 1 minute to describe their prototype (use a physical bell or sound marker when time is up)

  • What was your challenge?
  • What solution did you create?

Optional: if you have a small class size (2-4 groups) and you have extra time, you can ask the groups to build a second prototype (give them a second bag of supplies). The class presentation would be after the second prototype is built and they should reflect on the difference in their thinking between the first and second prototype.


Summarize the key ideas of the exercise: using everyday materials, collaborating, building on each other's ideas, prototyping– ideally bringing specific examples from the prototypes and explanations in to add color. 

End with the Summary Points at the end of the Outline page!


by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Design in the Classroom is a free program that brings Cooper Hewitt’s celebrated design workshops to schools across New York City. 


by Inna Alesina and Ellen Lupton. Inventomania: Inventing with Everyday Objects is a game and activity kit that uses everyday household materials to promote design thinking and invention.