New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools
Field Notes (Invention Convention)
Upstairs in the science room, Amber and Grace talk about inventions with the second graders. “How do we help people solve problems?” Grace asks.
Amber asks the girls where they think inventors get their ideas. After noisy speculation, they propose that inventors notice something not being done and then figure out a way to do it. In the brainstorm that follows, the girls consider dog alarms, light-up purses, and sunscreen applicators for the beach.
Grace tells me that earlier, they had given the girls a battery, two paper clips, and a lightbulb, and without giving explicit instructions, had told them to make the bulb light up. “That eventually leads to designing and planning an invention that can solve some sort of real-world problem,” she says.
Four weeks later, tables line the perimeter of the drawing room on the parlor floor of one of the townhouses, and the girls dash about, finalizing their displays. Grace tells the assembled visitors—mostly parents and teachers, but some other students, too—that an important feature of this year’s convention is the electronics and other high-tech tools the girls have used, such as Little Bits electronics and PicoCricket kits, and the 3D printers. Soon, the crowd ebbs and flows around the displays, and the girls launch into their explanations: automatic dog feeders, prototypes of door lockers, braille dice, ← 75 | 76 → and robots that clean under the couch. Next to each display is a poster the girls have...
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