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Differentiation in Invention Project K-6: Adapting for Different Ages and Learning Styles

For over 30 years, National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) education programs have inspired millions of children across the country through innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula.

Each one of our STEM programs is designed by our in-house team of education experts, who are diligent about developing activities and supporting resources that are appropriate to children’s varying proficiency levels and interests. With this tailored approach, NIHF programs engage children from grades K-6.

Our newest program, Invention Project® K-6, includes over 50 differentiated items with modifications specifically crafted to be appealing and accessible to a wide range of children. Because every student has a unique learning style, our education team uses the latest differentiated instruction techniques to engage and inspire children throughout the experience.

We invite you to read below to learn more about how our program elements are integrated to create dynamic experiences that bring students joy and help them build their confidence as innovators.


Grade-Differentiated Standards

Each Invention Project unit aligns with state and Common Core standards and is presented in ways that reflect varying grade levels and focal concepts. Through the use of videos, posters, discussions and differentiated reading explorations, learners can approach the material in ways that are most accessible to them.

Additionally, the program explores grade-specific vocabulary and challenges based on Next Generation Science Standards. These include activities centered around bioluminescence, forces and motion, organisms, energy, scale and engineering design.


Supportive Videos

The Invention Project K-6 program integrates engaging videos that bring to life various STEM concepts, and many provide step-by-step instructions for completing hands-on activities. When applicable, these videos are differentiated for varying grade levels.

For younger children, whose fine motor skills are still developing, some actions (e.g., creating a circuit-powered flower) may require additional support. With this in mind, we have created additional videos educators can use to help children have successful experiences.


Adaptable Curriculum

Each Invention Project curriculum provides guiding questions and discussion topics based on students’ grade levels and learning styles. In the Scale, Decisions and Prototypes unit of Design Thinking Project for example, primary-level students are asked how measuring can be helpful when making an invention, while intermediate-level students are asked why it is important to consider scale when drawing and designing inventions.

Similarly, in the Operation Bear Drop unit of Rescue Squad, the open discussion is differentiated based on a student’s grade level. For example, primary students are encouraged to talk about and brainstorm ways that animals and people can co-exist. Intermediate students on the other hand explore the practice of airdropping specific animals, from fish to bison, to certain locations across the country in order to boost the health of various wildlife populations.


Supporting Materials

Many Invention Project K-6 activities include handouts or other supporting materials. Though some of this content is differentiated by grade level, we are also mindful that children of the same grade level might have varying proficiencies, interest levels and preferences. Hard copies and digital copies of the primary and intermediate handouts are available, allowing teachers to select the appropriate leveled handouts for each student prior to the session. Our rigorous development and testing process informs our approach to differentiation, allowing us to make firsthand observations of children’s comfort levels, challenges and successes with various hands-on activities.

This desire to create an ideal learning environment for every child extends to how we design each unit’s activities. While our activities generally encourage small team collaboration, they are also flexible enough to support children who want to pair up in larger teams, or even participate on their own.

Invention Project K-6 also features primary and intermediate interactive videos and scripts to support teachers in virtual settings. Each unit includes grade-leveled videos, posters, activities and content that are appropriate for the differentiated audiences.

While giving young children the opportunity to sketch their ideas instead of writing them out might be helpful, older children might also prefer to express their ideas in this manner. Designing our curricula in this inclusive manner ensures that all children can find success and develop into innovators.


Reading Handouts

Each curriculum features five leveled reading handouts. These reading selections are evaluated using Lexile Analyzer®1 to ensure the text complexity, including sentence length and word frequency, and content are appropriate. Each reading activity also features grade-appropriate prompts and activities that help support children as they develop their reading comprehension and communication skills.



Pre- and post-assessments for primary and intermediate students are included to support teachers in assessing and guiding children’s learning throughout the program. Aligned to national standards, these assessment questions can be used alongside the provided rubrics.


Differentiated Learning at Home

When the program ends, children can continue iterating on their inventions. These “end products” are naturally differentiated and represent a student’s preference for demonstrating what they have learned.

Children can continue to take on challenges at home that they might want to explore further. While children work on their invention prototypes during the program, they may want to further develop them at home, with additional time and materials. They may also want to further expand their intellectual property by creating a larger version of their logo, as well as write a jingle for their invention. There are many ways to continue inventing until the next time they participate in another NIHF education program.


Learn More About Our Education Programs

To learn more about NIHF’s education programs, we invite you to visit our website!


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