October 12, 2017

Building Resilience through an Inventive Process

Our North campus was alive with students from four different grades on Tuesday of this week: the sixth and seventh graders who call the campus home and our fourth and fifth grade classes as well.

The fifth grade class spent the morning at our annual Step Up Day, which gives our oldest elementary students a taste of the middle school experience that will soon be upon them.

Leigh Houser’s fourth grade class joined the fifth graders for the afternoon, as the students took over our amazing middle school Maker Space and our dedicated Teacher Preparation Program classroom to work on their fantastic inventions.

Leigh, and fifth grade teacher Liz Richards, have been inspiring their classes jointly in an integrated unit of study that combines science, entrepreneurism, art, field trips, language arts, history, and an inventive spirit!

They’ve taken field trips to factories in the area, and hosted a panel of experts last week who discussed the role of inventiveness in business, as well as the patent process.

Liz and Leigh have designed an energizing course, which will culminate in an Invention Convention, which challenges their students through a generative and creative thinking process called S.C.A.M.P.E.R. 

SCAMPER was first introduced by educational administrator and author Bob Eberle to address targeted questions that help solve problems or ignite creativity during brainstorming meetings. The name SCAMPER is an acronym for seven techniques: (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R)

Liz and Leigh have challenged their students to think about common everyday problems and to create a devise to help solve the problem. They shared stories of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and how often they failed before succeeding.

Our fourth and fifth graders came up with a long list of irksome everyday problems.  A few of my favorites include inventions that:

- help you not run out of snacks at parties
- provide a safe for your school locker
- retract bristles on a hairbrush to avoid entanglement
- combine your toothbrush and flosser
- reduce waste at the water fountain
- help Leigh remember where her keys are
- reduce the stink in your cat’s litterbox
 - prevent Callie’s rabbit of dragging straw around the house

Using the tools available in our Maker Space, and materials gathered by teachers and families, our students spent the afternoon building and testing and re-building their prototypes.  Creativity was everywhere!

On the car ride back to the South campus, three fourth grade boys excitedly shared with me numerous details about their inventions, their process, their need to be resilient, their teamwork with fifth graders, and their hopes for success.

Extensions of the invention work include logo design, creating ad campaigns, persuasive writing, and mini research projects on different inventors.

When I asked Liz what the biggest take-away that she thought her students would get from this process, she didn’t hesitate to say resilience, or what she called stick-to-it-ness!  There have been ideas, and revised ideas, and attempts, and failures and success.

I am grateful to these two master teachers, Leigh and Liz, for the amazing learning experience they provide for their students every day. 

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