Friday, April 24, 2015

School Age Storytime: Mothers (& Fathers) of Invention: If at First You Don’t Succeed…Keep on Trying!


K-3rd grade storytime introducing stories of real-life inventors interspersed with some imaginative inventions.  A perfect S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) unit with lots of Common Core tie-ins.  Great for introducing the scientific/engineering method, the theme of perseverance and for inspiring boys and girls to consider careers in science & engineering.  Could also be a perfect introduction for a School Science fair or Invention Convention.


Read: “Potato Chips” p.4-5 of Imaginative Inventions by Charise Mericle Harper (609 HAR)

“Potato chips were an accidental invention, but today we are going to read about inventors who deliberately set out to figure out how to make something…first go back in time over 200 years, before the U.S. was even a country.  Ben Franklin was always curious…”


Book: Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock.  Twelve-year-old Ben Franklin’s story of observing how fish swam and trying to create his own workable fins is a fun and fascinating introduction to the persevering nature of our most versatile Founding Father with a delicious dollop of alliteration.  We also talked about the scientific/engineering method: 
“define a problem”  “observe” “plan” “experiment” “analyze” “refine & try again”
and noticed the similarity of Ben’s shedding clothes to a certain webbed-foot amphibian (text to text connection to Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathon London.)  Text ends with some of Franklin’s other great ideas – including the lightning rod (explained how that worked), urged kids to visit the site of his home in Philadelphia near the Liberty Bell where there is a working glass armonica and often a historical impersonator portraying Franklin (at least during the summer months): 


Booktalked another book that depicts Franklin’s use of the scientific method  Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff or Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd – both would work great as a common core comparison text

(Closer to home, the Edison Museum is a fascinating place to visit:
Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison by Don Brown is a good introduction to this prolific inventor.)

Optional song/action: Swimming Pool Song: (could do this with a paper of cardboard swim paddles modeled after Ben’s design)

”Ben Franklin invented bifocals – something I depend on to read this book to you and see your faces in the back row – but eyeglasses themselves were invented more than 500 years before Franklin…”

Read: “Eyeglasses” p.12-13 of Imaginative Inventions by Charise Mericle Harper (609 HAR)

Show a paper bag…”Does this look like an invention? – things we take for granted were once invented too…”

Read: “Flat-Bottomed Paper Bag” p.16-17 of Imaginative Inventions by Charise Mericle Harper (609 HAR)


Book: In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps it Up by Monica Kulling The true story of how a 19th century woman invented the machine that could make the paper bag we all take for granted and how a man tried to steal her patent!  (Common Core – can compare with Emily Arnold McCully’s equally excellent Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor. (both JBiog Knight) or Monica Kulling’s book about another facinating female industrial engineer Spic-and-Span: Lilian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen – who invented a step-on trash can and shelves in the doors of our fridges!)  Want to learn more about women engineers?  Check out:

“paper or plastic? – often at the store, your purchases are now put into a plastic bag instead -- paper bags decompose, but plastic lives forever and can cause real problems”


Book: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul tells how plastic bag trash was becoming a terrible problem in a village – even killing the goats – until a clever and enterprising woman and her friends figured out how to take this trash and make it into useful purses that could be sold for income.  (Booktalked: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer – the autobiographical story of a boy from Malawi, who, when a drought threatened his village, used books found in a library to learn to build a windmill from scraps. – has more ideas for this title. – has more stories of environmental heroes.

“Here’s another kid who uses imagination and builds things from scraps…but unlike the other books we shared today, this one is fiction (not true)…”


Book: Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty   Rosie loves to invent until an uncle laughs at her cheddar cheese hat, but her Great-Aunt Rose (a tribute to the “Rosie the Riviters” of WW2) convinces her that inventions that fail are not failures….your brilliant first flop was a raging success…come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!…The only true failure can come if you quit.”  Fun related book: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty (2nd grade boy saves the day when his class is stranded on an island and he builds a suspension bridge.)

Read: “Frisbee” p.6-7 of Imaginative Inventions by Charise Mericle Harper (609 HAR) named after the Frisbie Pie pan used by Yale students as the original flying saucer game.


If I Built a Car – Chris Van Dusen  (imagine the possibilities…then create your own – has a great dedication: “To my mom and dad, who jump-started my curiousity, fueled my creativity, and changed my crayons every 3000 miles.”)
If I Built a House – Chris Van Dusen
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel – Kathryn Gibbs Davis (many people thought it couldn’t be done but he persevered -- largest now in Los Vegas)

More great inventors:


So You Want to Be an Inventor by Judith St. George and other Dewey 609s – e.g. Dotty Inventions and Some Real Ones Too, Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women and Inventions that Could Have Changed the World But Didn’t .


Another great title: It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

This program was inspired by librarian-extraordinaire Judy Freeman who first introduced me to many of these titles and whose motto “Everything I know, I learned from children’s books” resonates with me daily!

See also:,  More at:

4.15 Bedm

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