Monday, May 23, 2011

Bright Ideas

The cover of my newest Popular Science announces the 5th annual Inventions of the Year. As I read through some of the ideas, I wonder why I didn’t think of them! The inventions, including a handheld bedbug sniffer, armored stun gloves, and prenatal disease-detecting pens, were mostly developed in peoples’ homes and school laboratories. About half of the featured inventions were created by students, again leading me to wonder how we can inspire students to develop a lifelong drive to create and innovate.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then invention must be the mother of entrepreneurship. If students don’t have the ability to create a product or idea, they won’t have anything to produce, patent, market, and sell. Joann is featuring entrepreneurship resources this week, and I have chosen resources to develop skills for inventing and innovating. We don’t want our students to become smart little drones who are really good at filling in bubbles with number 2 pencils. (Can you tell we are in the middle of standardized testing at our school?) Ensuring the students have the required knowledge is necessary, but we want them to use that knowledge to become the innovators and entrepreneurs who can change the world.

I wrote a blog post on the topic of inventions last August, which can be found here. I still love George Margolin’s idea that all kids are born inventors. We need to find a way to foster kids’ spirit of innovation so they continue to be inventors throughout their lives. I feel like this is an area that we often glaze over due to a lack of time. The following activities will challenge kids’ creativity and give them practice inventing and creating. (Shh…don’t tell your students, though, because they might think you are just letting them have fun.)

One of the hardest part of including something “extra” like inventing or entrepreneurship in students’ education is figuring out how to fit it into subjects that are already jammed with standards to be met. In my search of The Gateway to 21st Century Skills, I found teaching resources for inventing that could find a place in classrooms of all different subject areas. Don’t forget that if you find an activity you like, you can use the Standards Suggestion Tool at the bottom of the description. This will help you determine where the activity fits within your state standards so you can find the best place for that activity in your curriculum.

Here is an resource to get your students thinking about making something new from something old. The activity, “Is It a Thingamajig or Thingamabob?” challenges students to create something new from junk. You can expand this simple idea to create a “creation station” in your classroom, where students are encouraged to come and tinker when they are “bored.” There are plenty of similar creative activity ideas on the Gateway to help get the creative juices flowing at your school, and we will continue to discuss encouraging creativity in future posts.

Once students have an idea and a prototype of a creation or invention, they will need to know how to test it. “Testing 1,2,3” shows students how to test an invention using one of my all-time favorite activities, the egg drop experiment. I like this activity because students come up with so many solutions to one problem.

You can challenge students to solve other simple problems that relate to units in all different subjects. Adding a hands-on component could make the unit more exciting. Check out the following examples for cross-curricular ideas.

If you are working with music or studying the science of sound, a fun creative project for your students is designing their own musical instruments. I did this in middle school, and I loved it. You can take pictures of their final products to display in “The Virtual Museum of Music Inventions.” My soda bottle flutes could have really taken off if I could have shared them like that! In a physical science or physics class, you might want to try the “Inventions Using Simple Machines Project” or the online Levers and Pulleys Rube Goldberg machine building activity.

Inventions and innovations have played a huge role throughout history. The Library of Congress has a fun online game for students to learn about some of these inventions. Try playing the game “What in the World Is That? Ingenious Inventions Throughout History.” I played the game, and trying to figure out what these unusual inventions were was a fun challenge. Make the activity even more meaningful by having each student find and research one unusual invention to create your own game. When you get to the Library of Congress site, click on activities tab at the top, and “What in the World is That” is the last activity listed.

Encouraging our students’ creativity will help improve their problem solving abilities. We want our students to grow up and be able to solve problems, fix things that need fixing, and ultimately make our world a better place to live. I hope the resources above will help you increase the amount of creative activities available to your students.

~Peggy's Corner - 5/19/2011~

1 comment:

  1. Patenting your invention, idea or new process online is not as hard as it may sound. Indeed, the advent of the Internet has made the patent process much less irksome and also much more rapid. Thanks to cyberspace and the voluminous amounts of information available online, it's now incredibly easy to research similar claims and patents to the your own, as well as to locate patent lawyers who can help you with the process.


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