National Inventors Month in August honors the everyday creativity that has led to some of our most useful inventions, including Kleenex and the zipper. Inventiveness is a great quality to encourage in the classroom as well, as it fosters skills in science, technology, engineering, and math—the so-called STEM curriculum that has become a priority across the country. Here are some of our favorite ways to inspire young inventors.
1) Research inventors, past, and present
Have your students complete a Web quest about a famous inventor, such as Benjamin Franklin or George Washington Carver. Alternatively, have children choose a product, such as Velcro or Scotch tape, and do research online to find out more about its invention story.
2) Create an “Invention Box” or a Makerspace
Fill the box with common supplies, such as glue, scissors, and rubber bands, as well as recyclables like cardboard, paper, and plastic jugs. Invite students to think about a product that would make their lives easier. Then challenge them to use the supplies in the Invention Box to make that product a reality.
3) Put two inventors together
What would Philo Farnsworth (the inventor of TV) have to say to Nikola Tesla (the inventor of radio)? After researching famous inventors, encourage partners to imagine what a conversation would be like between two of them. Record the conversation as an mp3 so that all can enjoy.
4) Try an engineering challenge
Ask small groups to build a boat, a safe carrier for an egg or a far-flying paper airplane. Give the groups a variety of materials to experiment with, and if their initial designs fail, try, try again!
5) Design an app
If your students never put down their smartphones, make them part of your lessons! Ask students to brainstorm an app that isn’t currently on the market. If their technology skills are up to snuff, students can try building a beta version. Or they can simply create a poster or PowerPoint explaining their dream app’s capabilities.
Are famous inventors part of your curriculum? How do you encourage your young inventors?