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Monday Morning Ready04.27.2018
Jumpstart Your Week!

It’s natural to think about the processes that produced the food in your daily sack lunch, but have you ever stopped to consider the manufacturing techniques behind the sack itself? The flat-bottomed brown paper bags we encounter constantly—in the lunch context, at grocery stores, in gift shops—are as unassuming as they are ubiquitous, but the story underlying them deserves recognition.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

What is something simple that you use every day? How do you think it's made?

Grade 5-6

Margaret Knight invented many different things during her lifetime. Why do you think people know so little about her today?

Grade 7-8

According to the article, fewer than 10 percent of "primary inventor" patent awardees today are female. Why do you think that number is so low?

Grade 9-10

In what ways was Margaret Knight a good role model for women of the early 1900s? How is she still a good role model for women today?

LESSON PLAN
Create a Simple Invention

PROCESS:

  1. Write the expression "Necessity is the mother of invention" on the board. Invite students to share what they think this expression means. Guide the class to understand that every new invention is created for the same reason: The inventor needed to solve a problem. The invention was the solution.
  2. Tell students to think of a problem that they or someone they know encounters every day. How do they currently solve the problem? Is there a better way? Challenge students to think of a simple solution they could invent.
  3. Give students time to work through their ideas. Once they have a final design in mind, encourage them to draw a picture of their invention. Then have students write a brief summary explaining how their invention works and how it will benefit them or the person they designed it for.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their ideas with the class. Encourage classmates to discuss the merits of each new invention. Challenge them to identify improvements that could make the invention even more beneficial for those that use it.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Have the class brainstorm a list of problems people face. Select one problem. Discuss reasons why it is important to solve this problem. Brainstorm ideas for potential solutions. Give each student a piece of paper and access to drawing supplies. Encourage students to draw a picture of a simple invention that would solve the problem. Instruct students to write a caption summarizing how their invention works. Have them write another caption explaining how the invention will benefit people who use it.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to pick a common problem that people face each day. Encourage group members to discuss how that problem affects them or someone they know. Then have them brainstorm ideas for a simple invention that could solve the problem. Have each member of the group draw their own picture of the invention. Once their drawings are complete, challenge them to write a brief summary explaining how their idea works and how it will benefit people who use it.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to pick a common problem that people face each day and conduct research to identify simple products people have invented to solve the problem before. Encourage them to analyze the products to see and identify ways the products could be improved. Then have partners come up with their own invention to solve the problem. Encourage them to create a prototype of their idea. Then have partners write a summary explaining how the invention works and how it would benefit those who use it.
Grades 9-10:
As a class, brainstorm a list of simple problems that people encounter each day. Instruct each student to select one problem. Then have them conduct research to identify simple products people have invented to solve the problem before. Encourage students to analyze the products to see and identify ways the products could be improved. Then have each student come up with his or own invention to solve the problem. Encourage students to draw a picture or create a prototype of their ideas. Then have them write a detailed summary explaining how the invention works and how it would benefit those who use it.
VISUAL RESOURCES: INVENTIONS
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Designing Musical Instruments
This lesson plan from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum shows how musical instruments can be used in a study of sound energy. Students employ observation, logic and reasoning to demonstrate how different pitches are made. They then invent their own instruments to produce various sounds and pitches.

Entrepreneurship: Creating Products and Systems That Meet the Needs of Your Clients
This teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum explores what it means to be an entrepreneur and introduces economics through the design process.

Lenses and Lighthouses
In this lesson from the National Museum of American History, students examine a Fresnel lens to develop an understanding of how some lighthouse lenses work. Then they apply their knowledge of lighthouse lens technology to imagine a new invention using a lighthouse lens to complete a different task.

My Rube Goldberg
Cartoonist Rube Goldberg drew outlandishly complex machines that carried out very simple tasks. In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students examine Goldberg’s work. Then they create their own Goldberg-like invention while exploring elementary concepts in physics.

The Invention of the Electric Guitar
Invite students to learn how the need for louder guitars led to the invention and proliferation of the electric guitar in this online exhibit form the National Museum of American History. The exhibit also explores how the emergence and popularity of rock and roll led to the guitar’s commercial success and more innovative designs.

Sneakers, Telephones, Cups and Curls: The Power of Invention in Everyday Life
In this activity, developed by the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school students use problem-solving skills as they modify the design of an everyday household item. Students learn about innovation, analyze information and work in collaborative teams.

Lighting a Revolution
This online exhibit from the National Museum of American History explores the process of invention by comparing Thomas Alva Edison’s well-known work on the electric light bulb a century ago with several modern lighting inventions. The site considers the process of invention through five steps: preconditions, invention, promotion, competition and consequences.
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