Creativity Drills - SCAMPER

What is a "SCAMPER" activity?

The "SCAMPER" activity is an exercise where students are encouraged to think creatively and come up with the original ideas for a concept or scenario.  Students will learn specific strategies that will help foster original ideas and "outside-the-box" thinking.

The term SCAMPER is an acronym for strategies that students might imply as they try to come up with original ideas:

  • S - Substitute
  • C - Combine
  • A - Adapt
  • M - Modify
  • P - Put to another use
  • E - Eliminate
  • R - Reverse

Students should use the above strategies to foster their creative thinking.

What do "SCAMPER" exercises look like in the classroom?

Of course, there will be very few times when you will want your students to do a generic "SCAMPER" exercise, such as "design a better mousetrap."   For that reason, we`ve already written a wide-selection of "SCAMPER" exercises organized by topic, and they`ll be easy to create on your own once you grasp the concept. 

For example, if you are teaching about literary texts, you may want to use this "SCAMPER" exercise"What would be a great alternative ending to your favorite book."

Your students can approach this challenge in a number of ways.  For example:

  • Reverse - What would happen if the book had the opposite ending to what it has now?
  • Substitute - What would happen if my favorite book had the same ending as another popular book?
  • Modify - What if the ending to the book were basically the same, but with a few small--yet significant--changes?

Do "SCAMPER" exercises work for all subject areas and grade levels?

Yes.  Without a doubt... yes!  The "SCAMPER" exercises can not only be used in multiple subject areas, but also for the many topics within a given subject area.  We have already provided a wide range of "SCAMPER" exercises in the core subjects, and these can easily be used as a model for teachers who want to write their own to fit their classroom.

The same flexibility applies to using "SCAMPER" exercises across grade levels.  What is especially interesting in this case is that the same "SCAMPER" exercise could easily be used for a kindergartner or a senior in high school... and each student would benefit greatly from the exercise. 

Let`s use this one for an example:  "Come up with a new adaptation that will help a deer survive in the forest."  A teacher might ask this to a group of kindergartners hoping to hear basic (but correct) suggestions like "It could be super fast" or "It could gain better eyesight and hearing so that it knows if danger is near." At the other end of the spectrum, a high-school teacher will expect students to demonstrate a full understanding of the animal`s habitat and survival needs, along with greater detail of adaptations.  For example, a high-schooler might say:  "A deer`s brown coat might evolve into a darker green color, enabling it to hide among the bushes better than it currently does."

What`s the one thing to remember about "SCAMPER" exercises?

It`s all about the process.  Students can learn a wide variety of facts, figures, names, and dates... but the key is to be able to use this information to form new products, concepts, and ideas.  "SCAMPER" exercises force students to enter a world where no single answer has yet been accepted, and then work to use their knowledge to come up with their own answer.