The National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) has been providing out-of-school-time creativity and invention-based enrichment programming for more than 20 years. Curricula for education programs, including our flagship Camp Invention® program, are rich with opportunities for developing 21st-century skills including creative thinking, creative problem solving and collaboration.
The following elements are key components of all Camp Invention program modules and can be transferred to the classroom and home:
The potential to immerse children in an educational experience reaches far beyond the physical dressing of a space. While colorful banners, mock scenes and props can add to a program experience or environment, deep immersion can be accomplished through language that allows children to embark upon a learning adventure that unfolds as they lead it. What will the hook be? How will anticipation be built? Where are the opportunities to dive deep and wade through ambiguity to find new questions that will lead to future adventures?
Creating, Testing and Recreating
Camp Invention employs the hands-on “create, test and recreate” approach to learning, in which children build prototypes (models), thoughtfully reflect on the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of those creations, and then refine them based upon what they have learned. This approach allows children to build skills in self-assessment, adaptive creativity and evaluative thinking. They also build their tolerance for failure, acknowledging its importance in the development of an idea or product through trial and error.
STEM, Creativity and Innovation
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) comes to life for children through problem solving. These subject areas are interwoven in everyday life, and they serve as vehicles for the direct application of creativity and innovation skills. An overwhelming percentage of the most critical challenges facing this generation will require STEM knowledge coupled with keen creative problem-solving and collaboration skills.
In nearly every modern-day business and education-based publication, there is mention of developing creativity and innovation skills. There is little disagreement that these skills are needed, but there is often a gap when it comes to implementing development opportunities for them. Many individuals find themselves wondering what tools they should tap into beyond brainstorming. While brainstorming is a key divergent thinking tool, it is best served on a platter with convergent thinking tools that frame the dynamic balance of ideating and selecting ideas. Once those ideas are selected, then there is the journey of strengthening and applying those ideas in context.
The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process serves as a vehicle for moving through this rich land of novelty and challenge ownership. By utilizing CPS throughout the invention process, children assess challenges, collect data through testing, generate solutions through trial and error, and continuously refine their ideas through evaluation and reflection. In applying this process to work through a real challenge, they can internalize it and refer to it later when they encounter a new challenge.
Teambuilding and Collaboration
It is common for modern-day companies to assign tasks to teams comprised of individuals that reside oceans apart from each other. If children are expected to one day work in diverse global teams, they must develop teaming and collaboration skills that will allow them to be successful in these situations. They must build tolerance, respect and enthusiasm for diversity, including diversity of creative thinking and problem-solving styles, and be able to move from individual ideas to a common solution that expresses a group’s collective creativity and intelligence.
Simply placing children in groups is only one small piece of giving them a teaming experience. It is through careful observation, coaching, reflection, feedback and being given opportunities for adaptation that they will build the skills necessary to be effective team members in the 21st century.
To discover more about how NIHF provides immersive, STEM-based education programming for preschool through professional development, please visit invent.org.