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Integration of Invention Education: An Educator's Perspective

While no one can or should argue that literacy is not important, it seems a shame in this pivotal moment in education that some districts are aligning themselves to stances where literacy and math are the bedrocks and are to be the only focus for education. This, of course, has been accompanied by very onerous statewide assessments even reaching down into kindergarten.

What is very disturbing about some districts’ plans is the missed opportunity to truly change teachers’ mindsets and thereby transform students. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic give us all a clear view into the disparities and inequities in our education system. I believe this is a clear result of many districts’ lacking the belief that children are strong and capable protagonists of their own learning. We have heard too many times from teachers that “these children can’t do this or that.”

What we believe should be included in any district’s plan is the integration of invention education. The National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) believes that not just inventing “products” but inventing one’s own life is part of the human disposition. As this world is so dramatically and rapidly changing in all sorts of ways, invention education requires constant reinvention.

There is a pathway, a pedagogy that should be incorporated into all classrooms across the country. For what is the purpose of schools if not to foster skills that propel us all to a civic responsibility for a better world?

When we speak about inventiveness, we speak about gaining confidence, building persistence, being innovative and understanding intellectual property. For such skills to flourish in a classroom, teachers must provide for those opportunities where children’s thinking is made visible. When children have access to a wide range of materials that develop their thinking and are open ended, their solutions, formulated in their minds, can be made visible through prototyping. And it is then that teachers whose mindset is “they can’t do that” are surprised, and it is irrefutable that although literacy or language may be developmentally delayed, making their thinking visible — to themselves and to others — will then propel students to want to continue with literacy skills. As neuroscientist Dr. Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang notes, “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about.”

Some schools have prioritized the usual, the humdrum and the status quo. It is a true shame that at this pivotal moment in education, the power of invention that ultimately transforms the way children and adults work with each other has been overlooked by influential districts.

We look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of education and inspiring children across the country with invention education.

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