Educator Spotlight: Todd Stanley

  • August 20, 2021
“Invention Convention teaches grit,” says Todd Stanley, Gifted Coordinator at Pickerington Local School District in Ohio and a 25 year veteran of the Invention Convention program.  “Students can apply what they learn in the program to just about anything in their life.” 

“I first started as a social studies teacher, and was also put in charge of the gifted and talented program,” he says. “I was asked to oversee a science fair, but it wasn’t the right fit. Then I discovered invention education. The program allows kids to be academic and also creative (kids need and want both) and to problem solve and think critically.” 

Stanley is also the author of over 20 teacher education books including Project-Based Learning for Gifted Students: A Handbook for the 21st-Century Classroom, Performance-Based Assessment for 21st-Century Skills, and Enrichment Activities for Gifted Students: Extracurricular Academic Activities for Gifted Education in which he cites Invention Convention as one of those activities.

“Over my teaching career, I’ve shared with my students the story of the mousetrap. It’s simple and timeless, unlike the cell phone where you see a lot of changes. Invention Convention is simple and timeless like that. You start with a problem and take a path to finding a solution. Problem solving is always going to be relevant. The biggest challenge is that kids have so many ideas, but never too many.” 

“Through the years, I’ve done Invention Convention in lot of different iterations,” he added.  “Sometimes I do it as part of the classroom curriculum, other times I offer it as an after school program.”  During the pandemic, Stanley offered invention Convention during special morning meetings with students. 

While the ins and out of teaching invention education haven’t changed much, he has seen a marked shift in its importance over the decades. “STEM learning has become more prominent, and Invention Convention fits in so nicely. People are starting to value 21st century skills, and invention education teaches that.  It’s more important now for students to get involved.” 

There are other upsides to getting involved, according to Stanley.  “Unlike other extracurricular programs that take significant time and financial commitment, there are no barriers to entry for Invention Convention students,” he says. “Ohio Invention League does an excellent job getting sponsors so that the program remains free. Equity in education is so important. 

Stanley’s advice for students participating in an Invention Convention program: focus on public speaking skills. “Thomas Edison wasn’t just a great inventor, he was also a great promoter.  Invention Convention students who present well stand out, and this program teaches it in an authentic setting.” 

And his advice for teachers: don’t do more work than the students. “If you are doing Invention Convention right, the kids are doing most of the work, and you are just guiding them.  The program has a simple structure, it is a solid curriculum and easy to pull off in the classroom, and it aligns nicely with next generation science standards.” 

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