Project-based learning is a cornerstone of independent and boarding schools. According to Edutopia project based learning is "is a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge." The Invention Convention project that kicked off this week in our Fifth and Sixth grade classrooms exemplifies this type of learning. It also enables students to hone various skills across multiple subjects. This is the second time the Invention Convention has taken place at Hillside and Ms. Sexton explains how it works.
The boys in Monica Lucey's and Hilary Sexton's class are embarking on a seven-week project. The theme in the Fifth and Sixth grade this year is the attitude of gratitude. In keeping with the theme, the boys have to come up with a list of problems that the world is facing today and find a way to help. They will then come up with an invention that helps the problem. They started off watching videos that show children making inventions to help the environment, people or themselves. They then brainstormed problems that occur in the world. The boys came up with things like poverty, hunger, lack of clean drinking water and homelessness. Over the next few weeks the boys will pick one idea and narrow it down from there. They will research how other people have helped their cause. The boys will then create a prototype of their invention. At the end of the seven weeks, the boys will present their inventions for the entire community to view.
Through this project the boys focus on selflessness. They learn what it means to give back to people in need. The boys are able to spend two consecutive periods a week working on making the world a better place. In Reading class the boys are reading the book Pay It Forward. In this book, a young boy comes up with the idea of giving back without asking for compensation. All he asks of the people he helps is that they "pay it forward." The boys understand that what they are doing in the invention convention is in keeping with this concept. They are researching problems and finding a way to fix them or alleviate them. In essence the boys are truly paying it forward.
The boys are also practicing many skills while conducting this project. For example, they are learning to manage their schedule. With only two class periods a week to work on the project, the boys need to learn to budget their time. They are also working on their research and writing skills. They are researching their topics to better understand the needs involved. They will also have a writing piece that goes along with the invention. Finally, the boys will present their inventions. For Middle School boys, presenting in front of their teachers and peers can be daunting. The boys will fine tune their public speaking skills and present their final projects in front of a group.
The project is designed to be educational and engaging. A lot of hard work goes into these inventions. The Invention Convention should be a lot of fun and powerfully convey the theme of gratitude.