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The Educational Value of Inventors and Invention

Apr 22, 2022 2022-04-22

By Laura Ploss

It is never too early to encourage students to become problem-solvers. To identify a problem and use creativity to develop a solution is a lifelong skill that can be used in every facet of life.

Inventing does just that. Learning about inventions in the past and understanding the process inventors go through to develop inventions helps students become critical thinkers and problem-solvers. Students will ultimately be the ones to “invent” the future. They need the tools to be confident and successful, and those tools need to be instilled from a young age.

It is important to start students early learning twenty-first century skills to navigate all of the changes and technologies they face daily. These include learning and innovation skills such as critical thinking, collaborating, communicating, and creativity. Learning about inventing is a fun and engaging way to introduce those skills to elementary students. They are skills that students will use throughout their education and into their adult lives.

Throughout history, innovation has been the cornerstone of our country. By introducing inventors and inventions to students, they will begin to understand the how and why of inventing. For example, a young student can learn how basketball was invented by a PE teacher who wanted to have a sport to play inside during the cold months. The teacher saw a problem and came up with a solution. It took him time to test and refine it before it was ready to go. There are thousands of inventions throughout history that students will be able to understand and learn from.

Along with critical twenty-first century skills, invention also introduces students to the scientific method of observing, asking questions, making predictions, and experimenting. Inventing is not only developing completely new ideas, but it is also improving on existing products and technologies. Understanding the evolution of a product students use or see daily will help to reinforce that concept. For example, the phone that Alexander Graham Bell won a patent for in 1876 is very different from the smartphone most people use now. Seeing all of the changes and improvements throughout the years will help students to understand how innovations are made to improve our lives.

Finally, inventing shows students the relationship between all of the elements of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). One single invention can incorporate STEAM. An inventor often will need to understand concepts in all of those areas for his or her invention to work. Inventors may collaborate with others to bring their concept to life. Having students collaborate on an invention is a great way to illustrate this.

It is imperative that students are prepared for the future, and learning the process of inventing does just that. By learning about past inventions and applying the skills involved, students will be positioned to have confidence to create their future. Plus, inventing offers fun and engaging hands-on, project-based learning at any grade level.

Laura Ploss is Director of Education for If Not You books, responsible for creating the classroom curriculum materials surrounding the If Not You book series and accompanying Young Inventors Club learning and activities website.

Problem-based Learning 21st Century Themes Academic Achievement STEM • STEAM • STREAM

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