Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education: “Invention at Play”

June 10th, 2002 - May 31st, 2007 | PROJECT

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention in cooperation with the Playful Invention and Exploration Network (a consortium of six museums) will develop "Invention at Play." This will be a traveling exhibit in two sizes (3,500 sq. ft. & 1,500 sq. ft.) exploring the value of play and its critical role in the development of creative human beings. Audiences will a) learn how play fosters creative talents among children as well as adults; b) experience their own playful and inventive abilities; and c) understand how children's play parallels processes used by innovators in science and technology. The exhibit will be divided into three sections: 1) the "Invention Playhouse" where visitors will be offered a variety of creative play activities to help them understand how playing builds creative and inventive skills; 2) "Case Study Clusters" where visitors will learn about the playful habits of five inventors, and 3) "Issues in Invention and Play" where visitors learn about ideas and debates among theorists who have linked inventive processes to children's play. This exhibit is based on documentation collected by the Lemelson Center since 1995 from and about inventors of the past and present, and symposia they have organized to examine the characteristics of innovative processes. This research has led to new insights into remarkable parallels between children's play and the way inventors approach their work. A series of complementary educational activities and programs will be developed and documented in an Educational Manual. These programs will be aimed at diverse audiences including families, parents, teachers and other groups in science and children's museums nationwide and will help extend the impact of the exhibit theme beyond the exhibit itself. Teacher workshops will be developed and arranged for each venue along with a special teacher's manual that will be distributed during exhibit-related school events offering a variety of activities on the themes of inventive play, creative model of problem solving, and exemplary tales of playful events and habits in the lives of interesting American inventors. RK & Associates have done the front-end audience surveys for this project and will do the summative and remedial evaluation work. The exhibit prototyping will be done by the Science Museum of Minnesota exhibit contractors.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Invention at Play: Summative Evaluation
Invention at Play

Team Members

Monica Smith, Principal Investigator, Smithsonian Institution


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0125417
Funding Amount: 1593241


Audience: Adults | Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Nature of science | Technology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Professional Development and Workshops