How to Build Creativity (and More ) Through Making

How to Build Creativity (and more) Through Making // The Four C's are a popular trend in education right now.  They may be a trend, but they're also valuable skills that students can learn through making - and it doesn't have to be expensive or complicated.

The Four C’s are big in education right now: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication.  We talk constantly about how we need to be teaching our students these skills.   I’m not always a big fan of buzzwords – even though I’ve only been in education for less than a decade, I realize that they come and go.  But I feel like these four words are more universal than just the next buzzword. That harnessing these traits in our students will serve them no matter what they do or where they go.  And I think that one of the best ways to develop these in our students is through making.

(Post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase using them, I get a small commission that helps support running this blog)


When my students at Stewart worked on their creature challenge, you could see all four C’s at work.  Students wanted to give their creatures faces, but I forgot to buy googly eyes. So one student cut out white and black circles and glued them together to make eyes.  Another recycled some keyboard keys to create a face. Yet another cut up popsicle sticks and hot glued them into a smile. This is creativity in action.

Critical Thinking

The challenge was to create a creature that did something.  My students had to problem solve. Sure, there were a few who took the easy way out.  But many of them thought deeply about what their creatures did. One student who was passionate about sustainability wanted to create a creature that would help you recycle.  Another wanted to create a creature that would make people happy. As they developed their ideas and created their creatures, they ran into problems along the way and had to figure out how to solve them.  This is critical thinking.


Switching gears to the cardboard challenge, another excellent makerspace activity that my students did.  One student decided that she wanted to design a storm shelter out of cardboard and other materials (we live in Florida, so storms are a thing).  She soon got several other students interested in the idea. They all started working together on this idea. Each student contributed something to the overall project.  When it was all done, they had a storm shelter/weather station with all the bells and whistles you could want. This is collaboration.


Almost every design challenge I run with students (and adults) includes a sharing element at the end.  At this point, students share about their projects and their design process with others. During the creature challenge, I recorded students explaining their projects and we compiled it into a video (check it out here).  For the cardboard challenge, we Skyped with another middle school.  Students took turns coming up to the microphone and talked about their projects.  This is communication.

All of the four Cs were happening in our makerspace.  And what were our materials? Cardboard, paint, hot glue guns, scissors, recycled materials, construction paper.  For those who would say that crafting and tinkering aren’t real learning, aren’t rigorous, aren’t academic, I would challenge you to observe students in an activity like this.  There is some serious learning going on here, and we should appreciate and embrace it.

More resources about play and creativity:

If you like this, check out my posts on the Tinkering Fundamentals course too.  And if you’d like to learn more about design challenges, check out my book 🙂