Nicole Jacobsen
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Students present their Shooting Star project to a group of their peers at ESD's first Invention Convention.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb; Marie Curie helped pave the way for the development of X-rays; and László Bíró created the ballpoint pen. Over the years, researchers have collaborated to not only improve these inventions, but also sustain an environment that fosters creative thinking. These individuals not only changed our world, but also greatly influenced generations of inventors, including the Episcopal School of Dallas’ first Invention Convention.

Fourth graders spent the month of November studying some of the world’s most influential inventors. Then, they collaborated with peers to create their own inventions. Classes as a whole brainstormed different problems that needed solving, and worked together to develop potential solutions to fill the voids. Students also pondered how inventions could emerge from combining two existing items.

“Invention Convention encourages our students to dream about ways to improve our world, and then formulate a solution to these problems,” Sandy Kerr, Head of Lower School, said. “The project gave our students the perfect opportunity to celebrate the design and entrepreneurial spirit that is alive in our classrooms.”

Brenda Wilder, one of ESD’s fourth grade teachers explained that after students had the initial idea for their invention, they had to fill out a “Student Patent Application” that included a sketch and explanation of how their creation works. If their product was approved, they were administered a patent number and could proceed with creating a tri-fold board displaying their complete business plan, including product and consumer information.

“Students were expected to come up with a creative name for their invention, a name for their company, the price, and where it could be purchased,” Wilder said. “Some students even created slogans and jingles for their item.”

Once complete, the students became the teachers and were divided into pairs to brainstorm, research, create, and present their projects to a cafeteria full of students, teachers, and parents. Some students used iPads to create short movies about the research and development phase of their project. Others gave short presentations that educated their peers about the fourth grade scientific method and their invention process. The whole project, which taught students how to navigate and evaluate various fields of information, while combining collaboration, creative thinking, creativity, communication, and strength of character, allowed the students to showcase their hobbies and interests.

Two girls invented the “Calm Ball,” a lavender-infused chew toy to give to pets when the doorbell rings.  Another group created “Funjamas,” or pajamas that can be colored on with markers… perfect for sleepovers. Students Taylor Elliott and Jackson Morash invented the Shooting Star, a brownie complete with chocolate cake, a churro, and more toppings and dipping sauces than one needs to make a banana split.

“We learned that it really takes time to develop an idea and get it approved,” Taylor Elliott explained. “We learned that the first idea doesn’t often work, but if you team up with others and keep bringing different ideas together, eventually you will be successful.”

The idea for the Shooting Star came from wanting to combine their favorite foods into one snack. As part of their presentation, the boys made an iMovie detailing the creative process, as well as an explanation of how the brownie is made and how different flavors can be combined.

“We called it a Shooting Star because when you put everything together, all the ingredients shoot out of the brownie like a star,” Morash said.

“It was wonderful to see the ownership and independence the students showed during this whole process,” Ashley Jarol, another fourth-grade teacher, said. “The students were engaged, focused, confident, and excited. Invention Convention is a great addition to our curriculum.”

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