Invention Project Part 1: Creating Student Inventors

Hi everyone! It's been a long while since I have blogged... I've been busy adjusting to life as a new mom to my beautiful baby girl... but I am excited to be back to share some goodies with you.  In honor of "Throwback Thursday," I'm going to share a fun activity I did with my class 2 years ago that I never got around to blogging about.


Two years ago, my class was studying about wonders of the world. Throughout our studies, we journeyed across the continents to learn all about historic, famous, and mysterious landmarks, sights, and structures. When we "arrived" to Europe, our class read the chapter book Night of the New Magicians by Mary Pope Osborne to learn more about the great Eiffel Tower. Through the book, my students were introduced to 4 "magicians" (inventors) that created important inventions that are still in use today. After learning about these innovated inventors I thought to myself, "What would be a fun way to extend our learning?" Well, the answer I came up with was... CREATING OUR OWN INVENTIONS... of course!


Now, at this moment I was very excited because I had this great idea to engage my students in that I was sure they would love, but I wasn't prepared with any resources to help me put this project into action. I needed a way to guide my students through the process of developing an invention. As luck would have it, I happened to be taking a gifted endorsement course at the time which introduced me to the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS). 

Creative Problem Solving Process
"What is the CPS?" you may ask. Well, it is a 6 step strategy created by Alex Osborn (the creator of brainstorming and founder of the Creative Education Foundation) and Sydney Parnes which guides students in the creative process from defining/identifying a problem to carrying out an action plan. 

AHA! This was just what I needed. Using the CPS as a guide, I began to develop an "Inventor's Log/Notebook" that would guide my students on the course of creating their own invention.



(Since carrying out this project with my students, the design and content of the Inventor's Log Book has been revised.) You can check out the new and improved version {HERE} at my TPT store.

The first step in our creation process was to brainstorm a list of everyday actions we carry out and identify which we would like to improve or make easier. We created a class list on the board and then students were asked to pick 5 actions to write on their log. From the 5 actions, students were asked to identify one action they would like to create an invention for. 

Class List of Daily Actions
Daily Actions Page


(*NOTE: The first step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page students create one big web of ideas and on the second page they narrow down their choices to begin identifying the challenge they would like to fix)

After the students selected ONE action they would like to create an invention for, I grouped students together that had similar ideas/interests (i.e. completing homework, studying, wiggling teeth, etc.). 

You may be wondering, "What do I do if a student does not have a matching interest with another student in the class?" Well, I did come across some students that did not have a matching idea/interest and when that happened I gave the students 2 options. Option one was to compare their list with other students that were not paired to see if they had ANY common ideas they could agree on OR option two working on their own if they were really passionate about their invention idea.

Once students were grouped, we moved onto the next step... fact finding. In this step, students were asked to write a list of 5 facts they know about the action they would like to create an invention for and draw and label existing inventions used to carry out this action.

(*NOTE: This second step has been revised to include WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY questions to assist students in finding facts about the action they would like to improve.)



Step 3 was to identify the problem because in order to develop a successful or desired invention, the students had to determine what the REAL or BIG problem was that needed to be overcome. 


(ADD PIC)



Each step of the way, I modeled the process for the students. This is my model of the problem page.
(Prior to my having a SmartBoard I used to project my presentations onto my whiteboard.) 
 Here are some student samples of the Problem Page:


 

(*NOTE: This third step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page, students brainstorm a list of problems and select the one they would like to solve and on the second page they clarify WHY the problem they have chosen needs to be fixed and what they hope to accomplish.)

After students identified the problem they would like to tackle,  the next step was to think of solutions to fix the problem and design a prototype. 

My model solutions web
My model prototype
(*NOTE: The solutions step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page, students brainstorm a list of solutions to their problem and on the second page they select the top 3 solutions and survey their classmates to help them pick the BEST one.)

Once their prototypes were designed, the students got to work creating... 
I really wanted these inventions to be student-made so I only allowed the students to work on them in class. 
The Tooth Wiggler
The Blate (A self heating plate)
     
The Food Ball (Invention for Pets)
 I purchased most items from the Dollar Store to assist students in creating their projects. My purchases were guided by the materials listed on the students' prototype planning page.

In all, this project took around two to three weeks to complete since we solely worked on it in class while continuing our other daily learning activities. 

Here is a picture of all of the finished inventions:

I called this my "Invention Corner" where I displayed all of the students' finished inventions along with pictures of them working throughout the creation process. 
Here's a closer look...


The students and I were so proud of their work that we knew we just had to share it with others. Inspired by the book Night of the New Magicians, we decided to host our very own World's Fair to showcase the inventions. If you would like to learn more about our showcase, please check out my next blog post. You won't want to miss it!



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