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Partners in Invention Education: How Stacy Smith Brought Creativity into the School Year

Like many educators, Stacy Smith, gifted and talented district teacher in Duncan, Oklahoma has had to overcome the challenges of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From ensuring students can learn in a safe environment to providing engaging content that can be implemented in both virtual and in-person settings, Smith had to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

“At first, I felt overwhelmed,” Smith said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF). “I had to quickly come up with ways to engage students in kindergarten through sixth grade, both in virtual and in-person formats.”

Smith found a way to give her district’s K-6 students a positive learning experience in the summer of 2020 with Camp Invention®, the flagship summer STEM program from NIHF.

“Camp Invention is the best summer program I have ever been involved in — I was excited, and the kids were excited,” Smith said. “I loved it, and so did the other teachers who were a part of the program.”

Following this successful summer camp experience, Smith was eager to find out if NIHF’s Invention Project® K-6 curriculum could bring the same excitement and innovative learning practices into the academic year.

Engaging in Meaningful Creativity

In part due to Smith’s glowing recommendation, the Duncan Public School District implemented Invention Project K-6. The objective was to provide engaging, hands-on activities for students, whether they would be at home or in classrooms. Invention Project was a good solution because it included lots of fun materials for the students, all individually packed, as well as step-by-step curriculum and videos for the teachers.

Augmenting the district’s existing curriculum, Invention Project K-6 has given students the ability to flex their creative muscles by inviting them to brainstorm and prototype their very own inventions. According to Smith, the program “allows students to use their imagination and surpass their preconceived limits.”

What Smith appreciates most about Invention Project K-6 is how it invites children to identify things that are meaningful in their own lives. She shared, “I had a student today and he said, ‘I wish I had a bracelet that could cure cancer. All you had to do was slip on the bracelet, and you just push the button and whatever type of cancer you had, it would take it away.’ This was something that hit very close to home for him, and now he’s imagining solutions to help others.”


Learning the Value of Ideas

Like all NIHF education programs, Invention Project K-6 introduces children to the importance of intellectual property (IP) — creations of the mind that are used in commerce — and shows them how patent, copyright and trademark protections give individuals and companies the incentive to innovate.

Especially relevant in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, an early introduction to IP helps students understand the value of their own ideas.

This year, as she continues teaching Invention Project K-6, Smith is impressed with how her students are having discussions about patents and prior art searches.

“Many of my students did not know what a patent was, but two weeks later, they could tell me all about patents because they’d done their homework and researched them,” Smith said. “There are so many skills they can learn from just one project.”

Because the activities in Invention Project K-6 are inspired by the lessons and stories of our diverse group of NIHF Inductees, children also learn that innovation comes from everywhere.

Smith appreciates the integration of these innovative role models in the curriculum, showing children that people of all genders, races and backgrounds have changed the world through discovery and invention. “All people can invent,” Smith said. “It is incredibly important for students to learn that at an early age.”

Her positive experiences implementing NIHF’s programming have turned her into an advocate for invention education.

“If I was talking to a colleague or a teacher in another district who did not know about the National Inventors Hall of Fame, I would have nothing but good things to say about the programming. It’s definitely worth it.”


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