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Diversity in STEM

Building Students’ Confidence Through Invention Education

As schools across the country begin the 2021-22 academic year, many teachers, students and parents are facing some unanswered questions. Because the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, it is difficult to determine if classes will be held in person, at home or in a hybrid setting throughout the year.

For younger children especially, this uncertainty can cause feelings of anxiety. Beyond their time at school, many are also dealing with difficult personal situations at home caused by the pandemic.

During times like these, when so much feels out of our control, it’s especially important to help students develop a sense of agency and confidence.


Developing Creative Identities

With more than 30 years of experience in developing innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) team has seen firsthand the power of hands-on invention education.

In contrast to passive approaches to learning that involve lectures and consuming educational media, invention education is an active method that invites students to design, prototype and market inventions to solve real-world problems. Because students are given the responsibility to explore and follow their passions and interests during their unique invention process, this pedagogy can naturally build self-confidence and give students a safe space in which to explore their identity as creators.

In a recently published study in the Journal of STEM Outreach, researchers found that the type of invention education found at Camp Invention®, NIHF’s leading summer STEM program, provides an environment and context for creative identity exploration. Additionally, the researchers found that students in the study preferred activities that made them feel confident, included novel elements and were relevant to their interests.

All NIHF education programs are developed using lessons and stories from NIHF Inductees, so students who attend these programs are introduced to a diverse group of STEM role models. These role models not only provide encouragement but also show students what they too can achieve if they practice persistence, embrace their curiosity and explore the world around them.

Whether it’s NIHF Inductee Kristina Johnson giving students a clean energy challenge or Inductee Garrett Brown encouraging them to find their own solutions to a real transportation problem, children participating in NIHF education programs have the opportunity to learn from some of Our Nation’s Greatest Innovators.

Research published by Opportunity Insights supports this and found that the earlier children are exposed to innovation, the more likely they are to innovate as they grow older. Because innovation is often the result of discovering solutions that do not yet exist, students who actively participate in curricula that embrace authentic invention education strategies become confident, active learners.

“Camp Invention has the right balance of challenge and engagement to support student learning, creativity and confidence. Our students experienced problem solving and creative thinking in a way that was different from the regular school year, but in a way that enhanced the skills needed to support grade-level context.” — Julia Neufer, Camp Invention Director, Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia


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For more ideas and support in encouraging healthy perspectives, promoting greater inclusivity in learning environments, and guiding our next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, we invite you to visit our blog.

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