bulbAsset 2Coffeeemailfacebook-dsdVector Smart Objectemailhandsinstagram-dsadaketchun-logolinkedin-dasdasquote-startVector Smart Object1searchtrophy2Asset 2twitter-dsadafacebook

How to Sharpen Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills


Patricia Killian (picture below left) is a well-respected science teacher at The Alternative School for Math & Science in Corning, NY. Over the years, three of her ExploraVision teams have won national prizes, four have won regional awards and countless others have received honorable mentions under her leadership. We chatted with Patricia to learn about her experience with ExploraVision.


How did you first learn about ExploraVision?

When I started teaching at our school, my predecessor coached a team that won a national ExploraVision prize. Naturally, I was interested in learning more, so I searched online using Facebook. I liked how easily ExploraVision could be incorporated into our school’s curriculum and how it aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.


How do you help your students brainstorm?

I’m a middle school teacher, so I’m all about encouraging creativity and getting adolescents to look at the big picture. I always use “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” as a thought starter. We perform this exercise and write every wacky idea on the board. We eventually pare down our ideas to a few worth exploring.


What can parents do to help encourage their children?

Parents can use ExploraVision as a learning opportunity for their kids. I’ve made it very clear that “ExploraVision time” needs to be focused and fully committed. For example, in our home, we set aside Friday nights for ExploraVision “slumber parties.” My daughter and her classmates worked on their project for at least two hours and had the rest of the night to hangout and play.


How inclusive is ExploraVision?

I enjoy ExploraVision because it encourages students of all backgrounds to think creatively and find real-world applications. It provides an authentic opportunity for students with different learning styles to collaborate and problem-solve. I find that some of the most creative ideas come from students with big imaginations, and I try to ensure that all groups have at least one strong writer.


Have you noticed any difference among your students participating in ExploraVision?

Yes, absolutely. But at first, when you tell a 7th grader they’re going to write an 11-page paper and need to cite their sources, they feel it’s an impossible challenge. Once we start diving into ExploraVision project research, students realize they can conquer anything.

They gain the confidence to take big intellectual risks and they are less intimidated by uncertainty…that leads to some incredible projects.


ExploraVision is a competition for K-12 students in the US and Canada that sharpens creativity and critical thinking skills. It’s not too late to register and give your students the confidence boost they deserve. Register here.