How One Teacher Created an Innovative, Hands-On Activity for Her Class

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How One Teacher Created an Innovative, Hands-On Activity for Her Class

After attending the Innovation Mindset Workshop, a professional development opportunity from the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), Cathy Cashin, a fifth-grade teacher at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida was inspired to bring what she’d learned into her classroom. So she created an activity for her gifted students that embraced the same hands-on learning and creativity she’d experienced.

“In the workshop, we were given crafting supplies and told to either invent something or improve something that fit a need,” Cashin said in an interview with NIHF.

As her class had just read the book “Balloons Over Broadway,” a true story of how puppeteer Tony Sarg invented the types of giant balloons that are staples at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Cashin decided to develop an activity where her students could invent their own balloon or marionette designs.

During one of her school enrichment days, Cashin gathered crafting supplies including straws, tape, glue and pipe cleaners, and she challenged her students to create a balloon for use in a class parade to celebrate Thanksgiving. Additionally, she gave the kids a worksheet to explain their process.

For Cashin, watching her students learn how to adapt their creations over time was fascinating to observe. “I thought it was interesting that the activity took them through the design process, and they made adjustments as needed, based on the materials they had,” Cashin said.

Iterating over time and developing working prototypes is something that the world’s greatest inventors, like NIHF Inductees, use as a part of their creative process. It’s this exact type of hands-on inventing process that inspires all of NIHF’s education programs.

One student in Cashin’s class, Baylinn, originally wanted to create a balloon mouse with inflatable ears, but she was not able to get them working. According to her worksheet, she improvised and used recycled coffee creamer cups to make her balloon into a “fancy bear.”

“I saw some coffee cream cups and thought they would make great top hats,” Baylinn said on her worksheet. “And then I made him into a fancy bear! He loves manners and talking, and his tea!”

Many of the students in Cashin’s class were very proud of their work and wanted pictures taken of their creations.

Check out some of their amazing designs:

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