Daily Schedule

Monday, March 21, 2016

Inventions and Innovations

We began some good work this morning on the theme of Innovation. I started by asking for a definition of "innovation". One child thought that part of his house was getting innovated - I believe he was thinking of a related word, "renovation". Others remembered that at the Henry Ford we watched a portion of "Innovation Nation" being filmed.

Everyone, on the other hand, could tell me about inventions and inventors. Since they are so closely linked, we will be learning about both. But for a definition of the difference, I turned to two good sources - the internet and our own Felix (father of Isaya).

First, the internet:

In its purest sense, invention can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. Innovation, on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

Felix, in a moment of kismet, emailed me just minutes ago with his definition. It seems that he and his colleagues research innovation and collaboration. In part, he writes:


We regard innovation as a recombinant process, where ideas and resources are taken from current applications in existing domains and re-combined to solve a problem in a new domain. Inherent in this is the recombination of ideas from different people in the process, which then goes back to systems (remember this?) as social networks matter in the diffusion of ideas during the innovation process.

We certainly do not ascribe to the solitary genius myth e.g. Edison heroically invented all those things by himself. Actually he had a large lab, but took all the credit.

We will learn the amazing stories surrounding some popular toys - like how one man was fed up with his children playing with their food every night at dinner and - rather than continue to scold them - decided to join them. Grabbing a potato, bottle caps, and thumbtacks, Mr. Potato Head was born! Perhaps we can invent some new games and toys as well!

We will also focus on inventions and innovations by children. Today, for instance, each child got a copy of a very special book - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.


I read this aloud as students followed along in their own copies. This is the true story of William Kamkwamba who had the ambition to build a windmill in order to save his village from drought.

After reading, the students attempted to make paper windmills. Some children found that their first attempts did not work so well, and frustration ensued. This is also part of the process - to make multiple attempts and slight adjustments, until you reach success! If nothing else, I hope that this message is the one that sticks with these children, long after the theme concludes.

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