Tools for Inspiring Inventiveness

These tools can be used or adapted to inspire inventiveness in the classroom and among colleagues.
The tools are based on Opal School practice, serving children ages 3-11.

Artist Statements

Use this tool to build children’s capacity for communicating complex ideas (e.g., metaphors, analogies, etc.) through the written word.

Asking Big Questions

Use this tool to normalize uncertainty by encouraging children to ask big questions.

Asking Unanswerable Questions

Use this tool to discover children’s thinking about questions with more than one answer.

Cracking Open Words

Use this tool to show children that things that appear simple are actually complex when multiple perspectives are welcomed.

Doing Serendipity

Use this tool to strengthen children’s ability to seek and make connections.


Use this tool when the impact of children’s words or actions does not reflect their intentions.

Exploring Systems with Human Machines

Use this tool when you want to deepen children’s understanding of complex systems.

Exploding Systems with Human Machines

Use this tool to deepen children’s understanding of how complex systems can be influenced (after you have tried Exploring Systems).

Gallery Walk

Use this tool to help children contribute to and learn from the work of their peers.

Letters of Intent

Use this tool to prepare yourself to guide a learning community in a year of big questions and significant and surprising connections.

Inspiring Inventiveness with Literature

Use this tool in combination with other tools to invigorate your practice through high quality literature.

Making Friends with Conflict

Use this tool to support children’s ability to work through conflict toward a satisfying resolution.

Making Thinking Visible to Inform next Steps

Use this tool as the basis for ongoing teacher inquiry or to consider your next teaching steps by reflecting on children’s thinking.

Modeling Language to Support Inventiveness

Use this tool when you hear children using language that is not supportive of inventiveness.


Use this tool to encourage children to practice negotiating ideas and to identify new possibilities that may not emerge from working alone.

Planning for Invention Student Worksheet

Use this tool when children are ready to develop a project or invention.

Reflecting on Windows into Practice

Use this tool to examine a classroom experience individually or with colleagues.

Reinventing Rules in Outdoor Games

Use this tool to inspire children’s agency, collaboration, and systems thinking through whole-body play.

Snapping Ideas Together

Use this tool to help children problem-solve on their own with little or no adult guidance.

Thinking with Materials

Use this tool to expand children’s thinking about a key concept or question.

Translating Ideas between Different Materials

Use this tool to deepen children’s understanding of ideas by exploring their thinking through different materials.

What Can this Material Do?

Use this tool to introduce children to new materials.

What Else Could It Be?

Use this tool when children need a nudge towards uprooting assumptions and transitioning to a more open mindset.

These Tools are founded in Principles and Practices