Mount Madonna School (MMS) first through fifth graders have spent many of their recent T.E.A. (technology, engineering and art) specialty classes in “invention education.” They are preparing to present ideas for original solutions to problems at MMS’s first in-house Invention Convention on February 17.
“I’ve always wanted enough time in our elementary makers’ program to take young students through the engineering design process, which is a key element in our high school engineering classes,” commented teacher Lisa Catterall. “The invention process developed for worldwide Invention Conventions is perfectly suited for this age group. Human creativity peaks at age four, and through elementary school every opportunity to keep the creative fires burning should be taken!”
While MMS inaugural Invention Convention is only for students and teachers this year, Catterall said many of the students could use additional support from home as they work on their ideas and inventions to help them to be ready for the event.
To prepare for the MMS Invention Convention, students have identified problems in their lives or the lives of those close to them, in the school community, their classrooms, or in the broader community. They’ve turned the problems into solutions using their active imaginations.
For the last two weeks, students have been working on building prototypes of their inventions. Some students’ ideas are apps, and some are things they can build themselves or with minimal support from parents and mentors. This week they began designing presentation boards.
“Invention convention is so exciting to me because I feel it empowers youth and develops their skills to help them be the problem solvers we need for the future,” commented MMS parent Rebecca Kershnar. Kershnar approached MMS and Catterall with the idea of MMS creating its own Invention Convention this school year. Kershnar’s children, third grader Cala and fifth grader Kahdin, participated in the California State Invention Convention in 2021.
“Through its curriculum kids are encouraged to empathize with problems the people and places they love face and what they might contribute to help solve that problem,” continued Kershnar. “For me, the Invention Convention aligns closely with the values I appreciate about Mount Madonna school.”
All students will get feedback from MMS upper school T.E.A. faculty on February 17 at the on-campus Invention Convention. Students who would like to pursue a place at the competitive California State Invention Convention in April will continue to work on testing their prototypes, completing details on their invention logs and creating short pitch videos.
The projects and ideas are what are the most exciting at this point! Some examples include:
Calmer Gamer — A calm-down kit for kids who play reaction-time video games to transition from gaming to other activities.
Pillows’ Pajamas — A zip-on, soft onesie that appears just as a professional business outfit on Zoom.
Readable World — An app that translates technical journal articles into elementary-level reading.
Hug Talk — An emotional support stuffed animal that asks you about your feelings when you hug or squeeze different places.
Reptile Wrap — Diapers for making sessions holding your pet snake or lizard less messy.
The Loud Mask —A mask with an integrated microphone and speaker to amplify your voice.
Tree Doctor — An app that allows forestry workers to scan and identify which trees are still potentially viable after a fire.
Get Out of Bed Board — A bedside whiteboard with integrated alarm clock and idea cards, where you write reminders about things you want to do once you’re up and out of bed in the morning.
The Drinking Mask — A beautiful and glamorous mask with a tested, one-way valve to allow the wearer to hydrate through a straw without allowing particles to escape.
“We are learning a lot about how to organize an Invention Convention effectively,” observed Kershnar. “Yet even in this first attempt, the energy and ideas the kids have are amazing. If we continue to commit to participating yearly, it can become a meaningful new tradition for Mount Madonna School.”
For parents who remember MMS’ original makers’ curriculum, many of those projects will begin immediately after the Invention Convention. The addition of a second semester of T.E.A. for first through fifth grades, and a robotics program for first and second, has made this year MMS’ best yet in terms of increased access to this curriculum for students.
“This is an incredible process,” Catterall commented. “Mount Madonna’s makers’ program has always encouraged open-ended exploration and design using tools that are new to the students, such as circuits, coding, and 3D printing. This process has added a lot of heart to that learning by encouraging these young students to choose something they care about as a basis for their creative building.”
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,
Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.