On March 3, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) hosted a webinar that invited a panel of educators and district administrators from across the country to discuss ways to recharge teaching and learning during these challenging times.
Davia Madariaga, NIHF regional program development manager, kicked off the session by introducing the value of invention education and explaining that when students build STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills through the act of invention, they are more likely to develop a passion for what they’re learning.
Returning Joy to the Classroom
Following a brief explanation of NIHF’s mission to promote innovation nationwide, attendees heard from Mags Petkiewicz, principal at Gardner Academy from the San Jose Unified School District in California, about how she has helped restore joy and excitement to teaching and learning at her school.
As Gardner Academy serves a culturally diverse group of students, Petkiewicz promotes the importance of giving her students the opportunity to celebrate their culture and heritage. Recently, the school held an event where students from kindergarten through fifth grade could teach and share different aspects of their culture.
“We had them create presentations where they were actually teaching about their culture and heritage,” Petkiewicz said. “We had children teaching traditional recipes, how to play different games that were of their community. Additionally, the students shared the different traditions associated with their culture including traditional clothing and music.”
These presentations engaged families and gave students the chance to come together and celebrate the importance of community. “All of this was very exciting to see come together, and the kids were just so proud of what they could do,” Petkiewicz said. “That really brought joy to all of us.”
Encouraging Collaboration in Unique Settings
Camille Wallin, principal at the Muscota New School in New York City, agreed with Petkiewicz on the importance of reenergizing students by providing them with lessons and activities that both excite and interest them. “We’ve really reached a place of ‘Zoom fatigue’ and saw that we needed to remember that a big part of our school’s mission and belief system is that children construct their own understanding through exploration and play,” Wallin said.
In response, she incorporated hands-on activities from NIHF into her school’s curriculum that embraced open-ended discovery. By reexamining what active engagement looks like in a remote environment and identifying authentic learning experiences that naturally occur when students develop an interest and passion in what they’re learning, Wallin discussed how invention education brought back what made her school so special pre-pandemic.
“We have to trust that the children’s natural curiosity and desire to learn and engage with materials will lead to deeper learning,” Wallin said. “Now the kids are joyful and excited because they’re creating things, the teachers are joyful because they’re enabling deeper learning, and then best of all, the parents are joyful because they’re starting to realize that learning loss isn’t going to happen if we create the connections for deep learning.”
In this way, hands-on invention education helped make thinking visible and allowed teachers to make formative assessments that ensured progress.
Creating a STEM Pipeline Through Innovative Experiences
Christine Jayo, regional program development manager at NIHF, then invited Christine Girtain, director of authentic science research at Toms River High School in New Jersey, to speak about how she uses Camp Invention® and Club Invention® to help younger students develop an interest and passion for STEM subjects.
“I’ve tried to develop what I call a ‘STEM pipeline’ so I can engage students at an elementary level that I feed into summer experiences I teach for middle school students,” Girtain said. “Eventually, those students can feed into my research class.”
Girtain, who teaches an advanced science course at the high school level, was initially concerned that COVID-19 would impact the STEM pipeline she had spent years cultivating. Thankfully, last summer Camp Invention offered an at-home solution, and she was able to secure funding to offer the program at three socioeconomically underserved schools nearby to provide STEM education for the summer.
While describing just how much students enjoyed Camp Invention, Girtain told a story about how the program enabled one of her colleagues to reengage a student who had “checked out” during the academic year.
This student “hadn’t logged on to speak or do any of the work for the end of the school year,” but the Camp Invention instructor took a chance and sent the camp materials to his house. “He logged on and was engaged the whole time,” Girtain said.
As she continues to prepare for this summer, Girtain plans to use CARES Act funding to bring more Club Invention and Camp Invention programs to her district.
“The really touching moments for me were when they made those connections and the excitement they had about the materials that they were engaged with, and how they wanted to meet even more times — they were sad when it ended,” Girtain said.
Learn How Camp Invention Can Simplify Your Summer Recovery Planning
To view a recording of our entire “Reenergizing Education” webinar, we invite you to visit our website.
To find out more about how NIHF can support your summer learning goals and empower students through engaging, hands-on experiences, contact a Summer Recovery Plan Specialist today!