“The whole whole idea of my getting involved with invention convention has in itself evolved,” says Honey Kenney, who began teaching invention education in her Connecticut classroom over 25 years ago, and is now working with the Florida Gulf Coast Invention Convention. “I first started teaching students with learning disabilities; too much time was being spent on finding accommodations for them and developing specialized programs. After seven years, I was asked to take the gifted education position in my district. Then too, I spent a good deal of time finding activities and developing programs such as debate, journaling and invention. I became stuck on invention because it was a way for students to show their true selves.”
“I then discovered the students with learning disabilities and those in the gifted track were so incredibly similar — inventing was a way for them to learn with their hands as well as their minds, and a way for them to connect with each other. Invention allowed me to teach kids to appreciate what they CAN do. And having girls and boys involved in the same activity spoke to my vision for gender equity.”
“As for Invention Convention, it started as a bunch of teachers from Southern Connecticut sharing ideas on activities they could bring to their students,” she remembers. “Then a statewide program started, I later became a judge, and then a member of a steering committee, then Treasurer of the Board, and later President.”
“Then came retirement, and I took a break with my husband to tour the country. We stopped at every possible destination that involved invention — of course that included The Henry Ford. After we settled in Florida I was connected with the Florida Gulf Coast Invention Convention, and here I am back in the swing of things. It’s very energizing to be thinking about things I’ve thought about deeply for years; I can continue to contribute for some while now.”
What changes have you seen in invention education over the two-plus decades?
It’s the online component. This last year forced it to come. Now you can teach online, judge, and register, but the student videos are the most telling. It shows a student has thought about the problem, and that its a problem that they really wanted to solve.
Why should a student get involved with invention convention?
Students usually get involved because there’s an activity or an event that spurs them on. Getting kids intrigued about invention is easy to do. We did “take apart workshops” so kids could understand that every single thing in their house, someone made it, and it solved a problem. Rivets vs. screws, plastic vs. metal, wire vs. wireless, heating units, resistance — all of that comes up. Hair dryers are the best, irons are the worst to take apart. To get students to begin thinking about inventing, you just need to get that spark going. For kids it’s easy… they love new stuff and they love to get hands on.
Why should teachers bring invention education to their classroom?
In classrooms we do science, a lot of technology, and heaps of mathematics. The “E” in STEM is missing and it isn’t taught for the most part in schools. Invention is the inroad to engineering. The challenge that teachers face is the prescribed curriculum. My role now in Florida is to help teachers and school leaders find the pathway to invention as a regular teaching topic. Educators ultimately love teaching invention; we need to support them in finding the pathway to acceptability. Things are changing, but they only change if we change them.