Resources for Teachers

Young Thomas EdisonWelcome teachers, homeschoolers, and students of Thomas Edison.

Every day, teachers are finding Edison more and more relevant in the head and hands world of STEM education. In this section, we will be bringing you lots of examples about how to engage your students and children with practical, team-based, classroom exercises and activities.

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  • Whatever Floats Your Boat – A Design Challenge: Here’s a simple design challenge, based on the PBS program Design Squad’s “Watercraft” activity that will prove engaging to most technology and engineering students.
  • Pipe Cleaners, Plastic Straws, and Paper Clips – a Middle School Design ChallengeHere’s a simple design challenge where students build some very interesting structures out of simple materials like pipe cleaners, plastics straws and paper clips.
  • Bringing Invention and an Inventor into the Early Grades
  • Edison’s Inventions: Download a worksheet to help your class research and explore Thomas Edison’s inventions – remembering that he invented more than the lightbulb!
  • Game Design for 5th Grade G&T Students: The goal of this exercise is to, “Enhance students’ application of STEM skills in a real-life context…develop a unit that involves invention, sustainability, and STEM skills as well as provides for professional development for science teachers that facilitates collaboration as a professional learning community.”
  • Content and Process, A Balance for Success in Problem-Solving: In the final analysis, it is about balancing content and process and doing something useful with it, like solving an urgent problem facing society. Stuffing young minds with just content or advanced content for that matter is meaningless. It is like having the content equivalent of a high performance automobile. Without process (the steering wheel) there is little chance of delivering all that content to a worthwhile destination. This I fear is the greatest challenge facing all schools today, the ability to fashion steering wheels.
  • Teaching STEM with Thomas Edison: Both STEM and technology education has roots firmly grounded in Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs. When students study under the discipline of STEM and technology education they are automatically invoking Edison-style thinking and problem solving. They are being readied for a world of global competitiveness, eventually adding great value to society.
  • Solving Real World Problems in the Classroom – A Realistic Application of STEM/STEAM Principles: Studying how problems are solved in the work-a-day world is a powerful way to allow gifted students to practice multi-dimensional problem solving, and apply STEM/STEAM principles in the classroom. The process is the same, and can be learned early in a student’s life, for such skills never obsolesce. The world will always need problem solvers.
  • STEM – the Perfect Transition from School to Work: STEM’s fundamental premise … the world is interconnected; and solving problems is an inter-disciplinary and multi-dimensional endeavor … involving active learning, teamwork, collaboration, and student empowerment.
  • The Sun: The sun is the source of all life on earth, powering our giant weather machine and fueling the temperature differences that drive the winds. All plant life, and hence all animal life, is dependent upon its beneficial light and heat. Because of the tilt our earth makes with the sun, we have seasonal changes, and variations in our light, temperature, and weather.
  • Electricity Uses Math: The fundamental unit of electric energy consumption per unit time is the watt, in which we express the power rating of an electric appliance.
  • Firefighting and Fire Safety in the Gifted Classroom: Here is a ready-made topic for the gifted classroom. Look me in the eye and tell me that you have students in class who do not get excited by the sound of a fire siren or at the thought of fighting a fire. Of course there is interest, and where there is interest, there is opportunity for education. Firefighting and fire safety is a topic of great relevance and G&T students can instantly identify with it.
  • Role Playing and the Robot Design Challenge: G&T kids always rise to the subject of robots. It never fails to unleash creativity and intense interest. Here I present a favorite design challenge of mine, oft repeated over the years at many schools in a wide variety of grades … including with teachers at in-service seminars. Give it a try in your gifted classroom.
  • Teach all Four Letters in Your Gifted Classroom, or you are not Teaching STEM; and if you are not, Shame on You!: There is a huge temptation in the modern gifted classroom to embrace STEM half-heartedly, that is, love the S & M and sort of fake the T & E. This is a very bad thing to do. It’s all four letters, or its not STEM at all folks.
  • Stimulating Technology Projects for Your Gifted Classroom: Inter-disciplinary and multi-dimensional problem solving is the need to blend together a variety of constraints into a solution that is reflective of all the concerns of a particular problem. This is a hallmark of the world of work; and the essence of teamwork on-the-job. While doing this may sound overly complex for students, I assure you it is not.
  • What’s a Red Brick?: Here is an interesting challenge I like to give to gifted classes of all ages, including college students. I once gave it to 40 teachers in an in-service seminar class I was teaching on invention. It’s really all about structured idea generation, and about getting teams of students to think before they start trying to solve a problem challenge.
  • Preventing Stolen Cars – An Invention Challenge for Gifted Students: Good invention sets out to solve a real problem, a situation people recognize as important; and are willing to pay money for a solution. Invention, after all, is an expression of capitalism in action. Thomas Edison said it all years ago, “I invent to make money, so I can go on inventing.” In the activity described here, gifted students can attempt to solve a very real problem … the stealing of cars.
  • STEM Thinking and the Law in Your Gifted Classroom: Technology affects the legal sector of our society, and legal concerns can also influence the design of new products and services. Your gifted students should explore this interaction.
  • Using Music in your Gifted Classroom: Reach gifted and talented kids through music. Explore the technology behind those wonderful sounds they enjoy coming through their radios, iPods, and computers.
  • Using Timelines in Your G&T Classroom: Teachers recognize the importance of integrated educational experiences for their students. STEM-based learning is one way of accomplishing this, as are special classroom challenges, and design competitions.