Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by teacher Pat Genovese, whose kindergarten class participated in the Invent It! Challenge where Spark!Lab and ePals challenged students to solve real-world problems through invention. The winners will be announced February 4 and you can vote on your favorites.
In my Kindergarten class, our first semester theme focuses on the big idea that anyone can invent, even kids. In anticipation of the ePals/Smithsonian Invent It! Challenge, students saw a PowerPoint presentation about kids’ inventions that help people, videos of children inventors explaining their ideas, and Inventoons, cartoons about diverse innovations. We read a book about inventor Margaret Knight, learned about the inventions of Leonardo DaVinci, participated in a SKYPE session with a NASA scientist, and explored the inventors honored in the National Gallery For America’s Young Inventors. Students were then ready to work in collaborative groups to brainstorm problems they saw either at home or school, with an emphasis on serving others. It was amazing to witness students’ perception of the world around them and their unique approach to resolving problems.
The biggest ‘aha’ moment occurred in the group who wanted to feed people in their community and then realized that they could solve the global problem of hunger. They invented the Amazing Super Growing Plant Food. This was an incredible insight by five and six year-olds, inspired by the Invent It! process.
On the other end of the spectrum was the group that wanted to solve the problem of arguing siblings. They discussed numerous options, but had difficulty deciding on a tangible invention idea. One student recalled the inventions of Mattie Knight and was excited to share her idea of using a kite. The students decided to invent a cooperation kite that features kind words and pictures of Bible stories to remind children to share and be compassionate. They were excited to inform me that the benefit of their invention is that siblings have to cooperate to fly a kite.
I was continually impressed that my Kindergarteners were able to work in collaborative learning groups on an interdisciplinary project requiring critical thinking skills. My students were able to celebrate their creativity and realize that even though they are small, they can still help make our world a better place.