Thirty Circles Challenge

At this station, you’ll explore your feelings around climate change by creating a picture frame that represents your emotions about climate change. How strong are your "imagination muscles" today? Try this experiment in creative thinking and then consider how your creativity can help with climate action.


Practice creative thinking to make it easier to adapt and find new solutions to challenges such as climate change.



  1. Trace around a coin and make 30 circles on your sheet (5 rows of 6 circles) or use the provided Circle sheet.
  2. What can you think of when you look at the circles? Turn as many of the circles as possible into recognizable objects in 3 minutes (examples sun, tennis ball, smiley face)
  3. SET TIMER say go.
  4. Once your time is done, tally up your ideas — First look at the quantity of ideas: How many circles did you fill? Ten, fifteen, twenty or more? (Most people don’t finish.)
    Next, look for diversity of ideas: What’s the number of unique ideas or categories? For example, perhaps you have several balls (such as a basketball, a baseball, a volleyball) — that’s one category.  If you have a planet, a cookie, and a face, that’s three unique categories. Last, what rules did you or others follow? For example, did someone “break the rules” and combine circles to make something like a snowman or a traffic light? Did the instructions say anything about that kind of drawing? 



  • How did it feel to create ideas?
  • You counted your circles in different ways — looking at quantity, diversity, rules. How does it feel to have multiple ways to count your success? You had a limited time. How did it feel to have that pressure? Some people feel there is a time  pressure about climate action, how do you feel about that?
  • Sometimes when people think about taking action on climate change, it’s hard to think of  ideas of what to do. In this game, you used your “imagination muscles” to come up with new ideas: How could you use your imagination to come up with ideas for climate action?
  • If you wanted to make your “imagination muscles” stronger, what might you need to grow inside yourself to do so?




This activity does not need adaptation to work online / virtually.

One of the challenges of climate change is that people feel stuck because the problem is so big. Exercising the imagination is a way to increase creativity and cognitive flexibility. When kids do this more, it can be easier for them to adapt to new situations or find new options. There are many ways to practice, including: Drawing something they like, and making variations. Writing and considering many different perspectives (eg “How would an ant see this? How would an elephant see it? How would an Extra-Terrestrial see it?”).

Activity Source

Patty Freedman adapted from IDEO Thirty Circle Exercise

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About this activity…






5-15 minutes