We are surrounded; they are everywhere. In fact, we are virtually inundated with them. Take a look around, inventions are all over the place! Inventing, whether products or ideas, represents human capability at its best. The creative aspect of our thinking underlies science, problem solving, and technological progress. There is nothing secret here; it is not reserved for people with some special talent. We are all creative thinkers. With this book you and your students can develop and enhance creative abilities, become a part of the exciting and creative world of inventing in the classroom, and use a creative problem-solving theme to teach across the curricula.
By and large, the grade school maxim has been that there are two ways new things come into being: invention or discovery. Everything falls into one of these categories. For the most part, that is about as far as it goes. Sometimes examples of roles in the process might be suggested, for instance that scientists and explorers deal with discoveries, while engineers invent. Actually, the connection between discovery and invention is much closer than the traditional example suggests. It is possible to suggest an explanation of how we think, that does not separate the processes of discovering or searching and inventing. These processes are the way that people, your students as well, naturally go about the business of thinking.
Discovery and invention are not the particular jobs of certain occupations. In fact, Paul Winchell, the famous puppeteer, holds one of the first patents issued for an artificial heart. Do we consider him a scientist, an inventor, or a puppeteer? Thomas Edison, a person widely associated with the term inventor, created much of the technology that facilitated the use of his inventions as well. Should he be classified as a scientist or engineer? More to the point, there might be an attribute of our thinking ability that is common to all of the activities and roles mentioned. That common attribute is creative thinking.
Science curricula provide the classroom teacher at any grade level with an excellent opportunity to teach content and develop creative problem-solving ability through discovery and invention. While discovery is the activity in which scientists are engaged, inventing is also a logical, if not natural, extension of scientific investigation. The inventive process makes any discovery valuable in a practical sense. And practical value is the foundry in which progress is forged.
Linking investigative and inventive approaches in education allows students to apply their practical knowledge in an inventive way to solve problems. Nearly sixty years ago, John Dewey offered educators the idea that genuine thinking begins with a problematic situation, and that creative intelligence is fostered by solving authentic problems.