This morning I did yet another grant writing seminar for an enthusiastic group. The difference today was that the audience was a third grade classroom! One of the teachers in the District is working with his class to submit an application for The Classroom of the Future contest and asked me to come explain the difference between writing a story and writing a grant. The kids were awesome! Their ideas were so good and they caught on quickly to basic principles of defining a problem, proposing a solution, and getting your solution into the hands of the people who need it.
The invention they are proposing (kept confidential to protect their competitive edge) is meant to help students who have trouble opening their desks. Based on the discussion, I am guessing that this stemmed from a broken arm or two among the students. When I asked the the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) to help define their problem, they were right on (for the most part).
Why do students need to open their desk?
“Because students with casts can’t pull out their books”
“We need to get our folders.”
“We need to get our pens.”
“We need to get our pencils.”
“This one time…my cousin broke her wrist…and when she went to the doctor….”
My favorite part of the discussion was their marketing plan – how to get the word out about their invention. The first answer….(any guesses?)….a t.v. ad! From there, it only got better. After a laundry list of every advertisement known to children, the kid leading the accounting team gave the best one: “tell people to tell people to tell people to tell people…” This guy’s got a future in viral marketing.
Finally, I asked them to think about how they would measure their progress; what would it look like if their project was a big success? The first answer….(guesses?)….sell a million inventions! Later, when some one suggested that they be installed in every desk in their classroom, they whole class erupted in “ooooos” and “awwwwwws”. When the teacher suggested that they be installed in more than one school, I thought they would fall out of their desks with excitement. It reminded me of the importance of goals you can visualize. A million? Too obscure. My whole classroom and the entire classroom at my older brother’s school? Now there’s an image to motivate success.
Today, I am grateful for elementary teachers who not only redirect conversations that frequetly go awol (my mom broker her arm and had to hold her arm above her head every day…) with patience and tolerance, but manage to teach and inspire these kids every day. After 20 minutes, I was exhausted.