Nearly everything around your home had to be invented by someone. The automobile, the computer, the toilet and even the pencil are all the product of someone's imagination. Teaching elementary school students about inventions and the inventive process can spark their imaginations and illustrate how subjects such as math and science play a practical role in creating their own inventions.
Conduct a Patent Search
All inventions must be patented before they can be turned into a marketable product. Have students perform a patent search. Ask them to locate the patent number on their favourite toy or gadget. The patent number, which they will need to conduct the search, is usually located on the product box or the product itself. There are online resources available for patent searches, such as the Patent Search Information Center. The student can also interview a patent attorney and write a report about her findings. This is a project best suited for sixth graders.
Leonardo da Vinci Project
Leonardo da Vinci is probably best known as a painter but he was also one of the greatest inventors of all time. In the 15th century, he created drawings and sketches for flying machines (helicopter, glider), an armoured car, various weapons, a parachute and even a robot. Have the students research and write a report on da Vinci that focuses on his inventions and how they play a role in today's society. This project can be used in grades five and six.
Ten Things You Didn't Know About ...
Have the students write a report about a common invention that they use everyday titled "Ten Things You Didn't Know About ..." For example, students can list 10 facts about an ordinary pencil. Facts could include that "In 1861, Eberhard Faber built the first American mass-production pencil factory in New York City" or "The mechanical pencil was patented in 1822."
Create a Prototype
This might seem like a complicated project, but it's actually well-suited for students as young as first grade; it's more like an arts and craft project with a purpose. The project encourages students to build a model that represents their invention idea. It doesn't actually have to work and can be made from towel tubes, craft paper and glue. For example, the student could build a model washing machine out of cardboard and flush out the details with paint and markers, explaining that the machine gives verbal commands such as "Too much laundry" or "Whites have been mixed with colours." If they're always losing their pencils, they can build a model of a pencil keeper that attaches to a clipboard or the belt. The idea is to help them understand "necessity is the mother of invention."
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