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How Does Invention Education Prepare Students for the Future?

From the early agrarian civilizations that cultivated large fields supporting centralized populations to today’s modern societies that benefit from advancements in medicine, manufacturing and technology, our history is defined by continuous improvement.

This consistent improvement over time has raised the standard of living for people across the world, leading to global decreases in child and maternal mortality.

While these improvements have undoubtedly benefited the lives of millions of people across the world, today we continue to face serious global challenges that we must not ignore. These include climate change, loss of biodiversity, widespread infectious diseases and the rapid depletion of natural resources, to name a few.

The world needs big ideas, and at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe the best way to prepare today’s children for our increasingly complex future is to help them embrace their natural creativity through invention education.

In our recently published white paper, “How Invention Education Prepares Students for the Future,” we explore how invention education both teaches children how to navigate uncertainty and empowers them to solve real-world problems. Below, we invite you to read an excerpt from the paper, explaining what invention education is, and what it looks like in action!


What is Invention Education?

Invention education is an approach that taps into a student’s inborn creativity by guiding them through the act of invention to develop a mindset that helps them navigate the complexities of
their lives.

In stark contrast to passive learning strategies that task students with reaching predetermined answers, invention education is instead an open-ended approach to learning that challenges
youth to solve real-world problems by developing unique ideas and making their thinking visible by creating invention prototypes.

Because all NIHF education programs are developed using lessons and stories from our NIHF Inductees, our style of invention education benefits from and features the collective knowledge, wisdom and experience of some of the world’s most accomplished and impactful inventors. Our programs’ authentic hands-on activities give children the opportunity to develop the Innovation Mindset — a framework of essential skills and traits that emerged from taking a deep dive into interview transcripts and decades of other interactions and exchanges with Our Nation’s Greatest Innovators.

Each word or term in the graphic below has a treasure trove of stories behind it. For example, “Persistence” is brought to life through the stories of NIHF Inductees Marshall Jones (industrial lasers), whose motto is “Never Give Up,” and Radia Perlman (robust network routing and bridging), who speaks about being dismissed by skeptics along her invention journey. “Entrepreneurship” is made tangible by NIHF Inductee Lonnie Johnson (Super Soaker®), who reinvested his earnings into energy innovation and Eli Harari (floating gate EEPROM), who paved the way for today’s flash memory industry.

For Alaina Rutledge, vice president of education research and development at NIHF, and her team of education experts, keeping these attributes top of mind when creating new curricula is essential to our education programs’ impact, year after year.

“We believe that invention education should foster a culture of acceptance, accompanied by a well-established Innovation Mindset that provides a platform for participating in innovation equitably,” Rutledge said. “This mindset helps students to not only build confidence in their own abilities but also realize that everyone has the potential to innovate.”

Similar in purpose to 21st Century Skills, competencies that are helpful in preparing children for the challenges of their time, the Innovation Mindset represents skills that unlock students’ potential and help them deal with challenges while navigating uncertainty and ambiguity. One of the secrets to its effectiveness: It establishes an environment that promotes creativity.


Learn More About How Invention Education Can Help Your District

To further explore the benefits of invention education and its ability to transform today’s children into the innovators of tomorrow, we invite you read the white paper “How Invention Education Prepares Children for the Future” in its entirety by visiting our website

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