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Inventors and Their Inventions Review by Rebecca Ray

Vowery Carlile
Educational Impressions
P.O. Box 377
Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417

There comes a time in each child’s life when he needs to learn how to research and put together a project using research. What better way to do that than through a unit study? Educational Impressions has done just that in their book, Inventors and Their Inventions. Retailing at $16.95, this 96-page paperback is a unit study, a guide to creating a basic research project and a guide through the invention process all in one.

The book opens with an inventor unit-study focus. There are ten separate stories on ten different inventors, followed by comprehension questions, open-ended discussion questions and extra activities to extend the learning about each inventor. Although I sat with my four elementary age children and went through the questions orally, I found one of them really wanted to take a run at some of the extra activities, such as creating her own version of a drinking straw or making an art creation using Dixie cups. Both of these projects were suggested as extra ideas for taking the learning on straws and Dixie cups further.

With each inventor, you have the option of spending just one day per inventor, discussing the questions and deciding if you and your children would prefer to do a project, or you could stretch the stories, questions and activities over several days per inventor, allowing time to answer the questions in a notebook and to complete some of the more extensive creative writing and research opportunities in the extra activities section for each inventor.

Once the unit study section has been completed, it leads naturally into the research unit. Using this part of the study, your children can pick out their own inventor and be guided through each step from discovering what they want to learn about the inventor all the way through creating a project and oral presentation to share their learning. Techniques learned through this process include creating notecards, summarizing, create bibliographical entries and graphically organizing information to create an outline.

The end section of the book takes your children through the process of creating an invention. In this section, they also learn about patents and trademarks. In addition, they create an advertising plan and a poster idea for advertising their new project.

There are not many teacher-specific resources in this book. The answers to the discussion questions are in the back of the book, and there is a grading rubric for the inventor research project. Use of this book is really at your discretion, and although you’ll be able to see that there is a natural, intended flow to the materials, they are there as resources and not absolutes.

This book has a traditional learning feel that one would think would not be a good mesh for my house full of interest-led learners. In our house, I introduced each inventor story as part of our family read-aloud time, picked out and discussed many of the questions with my children, and then offered them the opportunity to pick out an extra activity if they would like to do one.

I was surprised to find my eight-year-old daughter enjoying the extra activities enough to spend a whole afternoon working on creating different types and sizes of straws after reading about Marvin Stone and the drinking straw. In similar fashion, Ruth Wakefield and the chocolate chip cookie inspired her to explore the difference between baker’s chocolate and chocolate chips in the finished products of cookies.

Although my children decided that they weren’t interested in completing the research project or creating their own invention, I do believe that the methods used in creating a research project are very helpful in aiding young learners. It provides scaffolding that is so much more helpful than just telling them to go and research and report back on an inventor by showing them how to truly do research using multiple sources. If I were schooling in a more traditional fashion, I could definitely it (and the other books in this series) as being valuable resources for teaching how to create research projects.

-Product Review by Rebecca Ray, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2015