Caption: Hagersville Elementary School students meet the Governor General
In the spirit of Education Week, innovation has always been at the forefront of teaching.
Whether it’s taking new ideas and implementing them into the curriculum or improving on old ideas to make them better, teachers encourage their students to become constant innovators in the classroom, at home, and in the world. Innovation is the process of continuously striving to make things better – either more efficient, safer, or both – for the well-being of present and future generations.
Through the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) club, Eddie Aitchison, Isla Nigh, and Ryerson Kett, all Grade 3 students at Hagersville Elementary School, collaborated on a project called the Relens. Led by their teacher Joe Archer, and two Nipissing University student teachers, Joseph Bishop and Presley Sibbick, the project went on the road last week.
On Tuesday, April 25th, the end product was presented to Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Tom Jenkins, co-authors of the book, Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, and Happier, the main inspiration for the Relens project.
The Relens is a cool idea in which old recycled BlackBerry phones are retouched to include a high quality removable camera in hopes of motivating people to keep their old phones. Another exciting feature that the students came up with was to add an emoji bar to the keyboard, giving users the communication modes of modern smart phones.
Ultimately, the main goal was to repurpose an old product, giving it new life instead of discarding it.
“Right from the start, we knew that we wanted to do something innovative. Our goal [with STEM] was to start a club that could offer our students a supportive space where their inquiries and ideas could flourish,” said Bishop and Sibbick during their presentation to Gov. Gen. Johnston and Jenkins. “This week we were explaining the significance of the presentation to our student presenters when a student said, ‘you know, in 50 years we could be in this book for the Relens.’”
“We thought that was such a powerful moment because it truly encapsulates the impact that this book and its subsequent resources are going to have.”
In February, with the help of Dr. Maria Cantalini-Williams, a professor from the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University, Bishop and Siddick brought 45 students ranging from grades 3 to 5 to the university campus to learn about the innovation cycle.
Caption: The Relens project adds features to give an old invention new life
Using QR code technology, students had the opportunity to explore Canadian innovations like the telephone, walkie-talkie, pager, and the BlackBerry. The trip encouraged the three Hagersville students to consider important questions about finances and pollution, and the impact that inventions can have on our environment. These questions helped them brainstorm and create ideas for the Relens project.
“Bishop and Sibbick became icons for these three kids, and these three kids became icons within our school community with their innovative flair and stage for dramatics,” said Archer. “Those three were unbelievable. They really came out of their shells. They produced an amazing end product and presentation as well.”
Archer is already adopting a 100-minute block within his weekly classroom cycle, taking ideas and concepts from Bishop and Sibbick’s work with STEM. Moving ahead in the next year, he plans to turn the STEM concept and combine it with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), including a lesson plan for students to develop a safe online presence, while also giving students the ability to showcase their skills to future employees.
“Always cherish your teachers,” said Gov. Gen. Johnston during his speech after the students’ presentation.
From present educators like Mr. Archer and Dr. Cantalini-Williams, to future teachers like Bishop and Sibbick, we should not only take Gov. Gen. Johnston’s message to heart, we should also be thankful for the educators and teachers who inspire us to be great innovators.