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Innovation – an integrated approach to science and technology

When St Francis Xavier Catholic School decided on the theme ‘Innovation’ as a whole-school science and technology focus, year 3 teacher Jo Collyer began searching for relevant teaching resources. That’s when she discovered the Innovation section on the Science Learning Hub.

Jo used the introductory video to introduce and explore the meaning of innovation with her class. Her students were really motivated by the video and found it particularly engaging because it featured children talking about innovation.

About innovation

Jo found the Hub’s Innovation resources provided the perfect starting point for planning activities for her class. The resources were also an effective tool in collaborative staff planning.

Exploring the meaning of innovation

Jo used the introductory video to introduce and explore the meaning of innovation with her class. Her students were really motivated by the video and found it particularly engaging because it featured children talking about innovation. They watched the video several times focusing on different aspects each time. For example, in the first viewing, they really engaged with the idea that innovation could involve big changes or just small improvements to existing products.

“That [video] really set the scene for what innovation is and that it’s about children being the future of innovation, and so that’s where it starts, within the primary school situation, so that they can understand they can be innovators,” says Jo.

Linking to innovation in their local community

Once her students had a clearer understanding of innovation, they looked at innovation in the local community. The new Te Matau ā Pohe bridge had recently opened in Whangārei, and they wanted to talk about it. This provided an ideal example to explore. They linked the bridge to the key ideas about innovation from the video. This was followed by learning more about bridges and building model bridges using ice-block sticks.

Using Innovation stories from the Hub

After focusing on a local innovation, Jo’s class went on to look at the Innovation stories on the Hub. They looked at the Zespri biospife, focusing on the recycling aspects, which fitted well with their school values and their Enviroschools status. The YikeBike video also engaged the students, especially the boys. They linked it to School Journal stories they’d read about different bikes. They also discussed the image Bicycle designs over time, and they wrote lots of stories about bikes and how bikes might change in the future.

Developing/learning about skills for innovation

Jo’s class then explored the sorts of skills required to be innovative, first by watching the videos in which innovators talk about skills. Jo was able to link this with Habits of Mind,which her students are familiar with.The students discussed what skills innovators need to be successful and how they could be innovators.

“They definitely learnt that you learn from failure, and working in groups came through really clearly,” says Jo.

They were able to reflect on and apply these skills in their activities. For example, when building their model bridges, they could talk about the fact that it might not be perfect first time but they could learn from it and improve the next time.

How Hub resources helped teach about innovation

Jo says the Hub resources were really important.

I don’t think I could have done innovation justice without them. There was so much I could immerse the class in – to find it all separately is really hard on teachers’ time, so to have it all in one place made it so easy to find everything.

“And the neat thing about the resources is that nothing is too long,” adds Jo. “There’s enough there that’s really punchy for all students to hook into and keep them engaged."

The impact on student learning

The students knew very little about innovation before the unit. “They were aware there are things that get improved on and some really cool things, but they didn’t have any concept that they could be an innovator and the future is about what they can improve on to better society,” Jo explains. “That’s the most valuable – that they understand they have a part to play in being innovative and helping improve society.”

Jo definitely plans to use the resources again, and other teachers in the school are enthusiastic about it as well. “What’s so good about innovation is that there’s so much scope to interest different students,” says Jo.

Useful links

Watch a video on the TV3 website about the opening of the Te Matau ā Pohe bridge.
www.3news.co.nz/Thousands-watch-Whangarei-bridge-opening/tabid/423/articleID/306608/Default.aspx external link

Activity idea

View the Hub resources Jo used to teach about innovation in her class

The introductory video About innovation explains the meaning of innovation using everyday language and children’s voice. Viewing this video first helps children develop their understanding of the key aspects of innovation and why innovation is important. The key ideas provide a structure for exploring the innovation stories on the Hub and other examples of innovation.

In The YikeBike story video, Christchurch innovator Grant Ryan explains how he and his colleague developed the YikeBike – a radical redesign of the traditional bicycle – and the potential it has to address the issue of transportation in congested cities.

In The biospife story video, Scion’s Martin Markotsis and Zespri’s Alistair Mowat, explain the collaborative development of the Zespri biospife – a novel tool for cutting and eating kiwifruit, which is made from a compostable bioplastic material and incorporates kiwifruit residues.

The image Bicycle designs over time provides a starting point for discussing how bikes have changed over time and for thinking about how they may change in the future.

In the videos Meet an innovator: Dr Martin Markotsis and Meet an innovator: Alistair Mowat, these innovators identify key personal skills that help them contribute to innovation. The videos provide a starting point for learning about personal skills and attributes important in innovation.

School Journal stories provide another medium for learning about different bikes:

  • Janice Marriot. (2007). Bikes! (Ready to Read, turquoise, Learning Media Ltd).
  • Maggie Lilleby. (2000). On the double. (School Journal Story Library, No. 3, Learning Media Ltd).

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