Inventing a new eraser
The other day, I conducted the following short segment on inventing (less than one hour) with a fifth grade class at Pu'uhale Elementary School. First I went through my example of pencil inventions. I then asked the class if they would like to invent something new and useful. Four items were mentioned, and then I asked the class to vote on one to work on. A show of hands indicated a majority wanted to invent a new kind of eraser. So I asked if someone in the class to pass me an eraser. I then asked the class to tell me what's wrong with this eraser. Remember, at this point, one is inviting the use of creative thinking skills, which means maintaining a non-judgemental class atmosphere, free of any criticism. You write down on the blackboard whatever the class suggests, and these are the actual responses I got:
What wrong with this eraser?
Then I asked the class for solutions to any of the above problems, and suggestions for a new and more useful eraser:
- too hard
- too small
- gets smaller when you use it
- hard to hold
- everyone has the same kind
- not interesting
- junk eraser
- gets lost easily
- makes a lot of mess
- your hand gets tired when using it
- cannot erase crayons or pens
- rips paper
At this point, I went into a little discussion of which types of erasers could be invented in the class at that moment. This is the initiation of the critical thinking skills aspect of the class. Other questions that may be asked include:
- make it softer
- make it bigger
- make it like clay
- personalize it
- make it a different color
- make it a different shape
- the following shapes were suggested: animal, dinosaur, person, truck...
- stronger paper
- new crayon eraser
- make a new crayon that can be erased
- make a broom on it
- make it more comfortable to hold
- make it fit on the end of your finger
- someone holds a bottle of white out
- make eraser like chalk to white out mistakes
If I had the class for a longer length of time, we could invent all kinds of things, and the students could then stage an "invention craft fair" to sell their inventions, and make money for other activities.
- Which kinds of erasers can they make right now?
- How much will they cost?
- What things do they need to know more about?
Last updated 24 October 1995
Copyright © 1995 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.