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Innovators and Inventions

Are you an innovator or inventor? Learn about the ColorCycle program and how repurposed markers became fuel.

  • Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Ask how many students have ever heard the expression: “Thinking outside the box...” What does it mean? Why is this an important part of problem solving? People who can come up with new, useful ideas and unique solutions often become inventors or innovators.
    2. Discuss the ColorCycle program and the innovation of turning markers into fuel. Urge students to research the inventors whose innovative ideas made life easier or processes more efficient.
    3. Discuss the expression: “Necessity is often the mother of invention.” What does this mean? This lesson will involve students researching solutions that were invented to solve problems. As they explore inventions ask them to keep in mind, how that expression applies. Why do problems often lead to inventions? Have students brainstorm a list of historic or contemporary inventors and their inventions. What were the problems these innovators where solving?
    4. What ideas do the students have for new inventions? Does it help to start with a problem that needs to be solved? What current or future problems will inventions need to address, ranging from access to clean water, health care, nutritious foods, and new modes of transportation?
    5. Discuss the process of receiving patents and building prototypes. Ask students to use Model Magic and small recycled items to build a prototype of an invention. As the students present their inventions to classmates, have them explore what would be involved in applying for a patent or presenting the invention to a potential funder/investor. Drawing a detailed diagram with Crayola Washable Markers could be an option for those whose idea involves a process rather than a product.
    6. For students who are building prototype models, demonstrate how to make an armature for a model using crumpled aluminum foil and recycled materials such as small cardboard boxes and plastic containers. Encourage students to use their imaginations. Remind them that Model Magic fresh from the pack will stick to itself. Dried pieces can be glued together. Plastic dinnerware can be used for modeling tools and markers make good rolling pins.
    7. When models are finished have students take turns presenting their inventions to groups of classmates posing as representatives from the U.S. patent office or manufacturing companies or investment firms. Encourage presenters to be informative and persuasive.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade level topic or subject area.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    SCI: Construct models, based on research, to test and refine various design solutions for reducing the impacts of geological hazards.

    SCI: Develop a model using examples to explain differences between renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.

    SCI: Obtain and communicate information that some characteristics of organisms have been used to inspire technology that meets societal needs.

    SS: Explore factors that contribute to one's personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

    SS: Apply knowledge of economic concepts in developing a response to a current local economic issue, such as how to reduce the flow of trash into a rapidly filling landfill.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures.

  • Adaptations

    Are adults the only inventors? No! Anyone with a good idea can be an inventor. Tell students the story of Abbey Fleck, the inventor of the Makin’ Bacon dish. Have them research other child inventors. Invite them to discuss ideas they have for inventions of their own.

    Learn how the hula hoop, Frisbees, and bubble gum were invented at

    Today, inventors are often called engineers. Discuss engineering as a career. Tell students that engineers are creative problem solvers. They work in fields such as chemical engineering, electrical engineering, aeronautical engineering and many others.


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