Invention Convention 2012
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Invention Convention 2012

Moriah 4th graders get creative for annual event

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Casey and Hilary with their wheelchair serving tray.

A musical pacifier, mittens and gloves with tissue pockets, a cleat guard – all these nifty novelties and more were displayed by their fourth-grade inventors at The Moriah School of Englewood’s Invention Convention on April 24.

Starting just after the January break, teachers guided the 45 pupils, working in pairs or threes, in deciding on their inventions. They brainstormed a need collaboratively, thought of possible solutions, designed the solutions on paper, and then built prototypes, said Robin Wexler, associate principal for general studies in the Lower School.

“Throughout our exciting Invention Unit, we hope to have stimulated the imagination of our children, and provided a channel in which to unleash their creative juices,” Wexler said. “It is our role as educators to show students the importance of integrating reading, writing, math, art, science and technology skills, as well as to emphasize the significance of becoming creative, divergent, and independent thinkers.”

The unit included a variety of science labs with teacher Barbara D’Amico, where the children worked in groups to construct houses of sticks, roller coasters, glue, and catapults – which they were allowed to use to launch marshmallows in a “war” pitting girls against boys.

Alhough the event has been staged at the day school annually for 12 years, each successive one has featured additional enhancements.

This year, the Invention Convention included a dedicated display of Israeli inventions, inspired by an exhibit last year at Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum highlighting 45 of the best innovations from Israel. With technology teacher Nancy Miller, the pupils put together a graphic organizer showcasing these items, such as the Disk-on-Key and the Pythagoras solar window.

Miller also helped them make PowerPoint slides, including animated clips. “They start using PowerPoint in first grade,” she explained, “but every year I step up the skills and they learn more features.”

Miller and fourth-grade classroom teacher Lauren Adler produced a movie with narration (http://www.edline.net/ExtLink.page) showing the children’s progress along the way to the big night. “This way, parents were able to see the process on our website,” Miller said.

Compiling data, creating prototypes, and presenting findings in a wide assortment of projects have many educational benefits, Wexler said.

“Research has shown that the invention process encourages creativity, enhances self-image, and develops the skills of logical thinking and creative problem-solving,” she said.

“Inventing taught me that I am more creative than I thought I was,” says one child on the video. “My partner and I shared ideas, and were flexible with each other. I realized that it can be hard to compromise, but if you do, both people can be happy at the end.”

Another commented, “A really important thing I learned about myself is that I am not always right. Sometimes I got mad at myself for making a small mistake, but my partner helped me see that there’s always a way to work around it.”

Asked their favorite part of the inventing process, one student said it was building the prototype. “It was so cool seeing all the little pieces come together into one big invention. I was also able to be creative and messy, which was a lot of fun.”

Some of the fourth-graders expressed interest in becoming inventors when they grow up. “The Invention Convention inspired me and taught me all different ways to look at ordinary things,” one student related.

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Andrew and Aaron (and Rone, not pictured) came up with this “magic door monitor” that lets visitors know if they can enter.
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