As developers of education tools, we pride ourselves in empowering students to think independently, work creatively, and learn collaboratively through our STEM curriculum. The course we’ve designed is extremely flexible, putting the power into the hands of students as they develop, build, and advertise their own original product.
However, although our course is adaptable for different schooling levels (elementary, middle, and high school), from year to year within each level our curriculum remains relatively the same in structure, instruction, and material. That often leaves some of our friends in education scratching their heads, asking us- what’s the merit of taking the course multiple times? Well, we spoke with some of our curriculum students and educators from Burgettstown School District to shed some light on the subject.
One way we’ve noticed students grow throughout multiple years of taking the course is that they further improve their problem-solving skills. Over the course of the independent work and the various steps needed (prototyping, packaging, researching, etc.) you’re naturally going to encounter a few hiccups. Our first-year students are able to work their way around those roadblocks, but our second and third-year students can anticipate them before they even happen in a lot of cases. According to student Daniel from Burgettstown, who has taken the course for three years, “The first year we were diving in headfirst, we didn’t really know what we were getting into. Now, we’re like seasoned vets… We’ve done a few inventions now and we’ve run into many problems along the way, but it’s helped us realize how to overcome and adapt to problems.”
Another manner in which our ‘veteran’ students gain more throughout their multiple years is that they get more creative and confident in their products the more years they stick with the curriculum. When asked if students should take the course multiple times, Evan, a senior year student at Burgettstown who has taken the course for six semesters, stated, “Most definitely, yes. This first year can be a lot to take in, so you just have to get a feel for the course… I’ve done a different project every semester. That has been a lot of work, but I feel like it’s helped me develop my products and it’s given me a better understanding of what it takes to actually create something and start a business. You learn from each failure, that’s the biggest thing.”
Teacher at Burgettstown, Laura Wells, stated when asked how taking the course multiple years had benefited her students.
” It has helped students have a better understanding of design and how to solve a problem,” said Wells.
“They make an observation and then ask themselves, ‘Hey how do I solve this?’ This allows them to become better problem-solvers… Some of them take the class seriously and really want to move forward with their projects. And I think some of them are going to take it beyond just the classroom. That would be the dream, if they come back in five years and they say, ‘Hey Ms. Wells, I made this product and it changed my life.’
I’ve already had that kind of experience with a student who was in my class the first year. He got accepted at Penn State’s main campus, and he was in landscape architecture… He came back and he said ‘Ms. Wells, I just want to say thank you. I was so far ahead of my peers.'”
Returning students also benefit from being able to work with multiple groups over the various semesters. So perhaps their first semester they play it safe and work with friends, but their next semester they take a risk and work with people they don’t know as well. Not only does this benefit them socially, but being able to work collaboratively with a variety of different personalities is an amazing real-world experience to bring into the workforce.
On this subject, senior at Burgettstown Michael, who has taken the course for three semesters, stated, “I would definitely recommend you take it more than once. I recommend taking it once with a group and once by yourself because when you do it with a group you learn how to work with a team, trust each other, and coordinate everyone’s roles in the project. Then you should do a semester by yourself so you can understand how some of the greatest inventions have been invented by one person.”
Finally, returning students become an excellent resource to help shape and guide students who are taking the course for the first time. Evan, who we spoke about earlier, worked with two first-time students in his most recent project- Riley and Cody. When asked how it has helped them to be working with a seasoned curriculum student, Riley stated, “It has helped us to have him on the team. He has more experience and knows what [the presentation judges are] thinking more than we do, so he can guide us more.” In addition, in regard to working with his partners, Evan stated, “Yeah, it’s definitely been exciting because you get to take what you’ve learned and pass it down in a way.”
Although the material remains relatively the same from year to year, there is so much our students get out of taking our course two, three, or even six times! Just ask one of our most seasoned students ever, Evan, what he has learned from his years of experience with the Inventionland Institute Curriculum, “Well, the course is what actually encouraged me to create my own company. So that’s definitely going to follow me through the entirety of – hopefully, my life! I’ve also learned about the ability to take the role of making something and presenting, not only the product but also yourself. Because you’re selling yourself just as much as your product.”