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Invention Convention Paying Dividends In Manchester

The Connecticut Invention Convention has been around since the 1983-84 school year, making it the nation’s “oldest continuously operating children’s invention competition.”

Manchester will have its town-wide event on Saturday, April 23 -- with 10 students scheduled to advance to a regional event at UConn the following Saturday.

In a sense, though, Manchester’s K-8 students are already winners.  That’s because they have benefited from extra resources and support provided this year by the state organizers, who have piloted a program here emphasizing how to highlight “energy” in students’ learning while also enhancing their  critical thinking skills through invention, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Helen Charov,  the executive director of the CIC, said her organization chose  Manchester as a piloting partner because of the “interest and expertise” of Santosha Oliver, the district’s  director of teaching and learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics

“We had been working with some grant funding potentially earmarked for this kind of pilot and we were glad to find eager partners with Manchester Schools,” Charov said.

Jake Mendelssohn, the CIC’s outreach director, concurred, saying they approached Manchester because of the size of the district and the diversity within.

“They also have a very innovative administration which is fully committed to the new STEM direction,” he said, “and an enthusiastic cadre of educational teaching professionals who are always working to bring the latest pedagogical techniques into their classrooms.”

Some of the support Manchester has received has come via professional development -- including a session at Highland Park last week that was  part of what’s called the “Manchester Energy Education Lesson Development Workshops.”

According to Mendelssohn, the STEM Specialists from the nine elementary schools have been developing new lessons and activities focused on the theme of energy -- what it is, how it used and how it can be conserved.

At Tuesday’s session, the teachers demonstrated and explained what they had created to their co-workers, for feedback, suggestions and advice about how to improve and enhance the lessons.

“We also had a wide-ranging discussion of how to bring various important energy related concepts to a wide range of grade levels,” he said.

The session  was videotaped so that CIC might share it with educators throughout the state and beyond.

The Invention Convention itself has been an effective way to introduce students and their parents to subjects including civil, mechanical and chemical engineering, and has helped students discover engineering and science as viable career options. More than 240 schools throughout the state take part every year, with 1200 inventors (from about 17,000 students) qualifying for the finals event in Storrs.

The competition is exciting and garners attention, but is just one dimension of work Manchester is doing in this arena. For example, at the high school there is now a STEM-D Academy, where students focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design.  There is also a  new Health and Science lab at the high school which includes Biomedical Engineering, Dentistry, Emergency Medical Technician, Medical Imaging, Nursing, Sports Medicine, Therapeutic Services and Veterinary Medicine.

“We are committed to providing academically rich and personalized learning opportunities during and beyond the traditional school day to prepare our students for the 21st century,” Dr. Oliver said, adding that events like the Invention Convention (which is being held along with a town-wide science fair) provide “a unique opportunity for students in Kindergarten through grade 8 to think creatively and critically, experiment, solve problems, and celebrate ‘failures’ and redesign as part of this authentic project-based learning experience.”

Manchester Public Schools 45 North School St, Manchester, CT 06042

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