Take a good look inside teacher Karen Ripa’s class at Pond Hill Elementary School in Wallingford and you just might find the next Thomas Edison.
"They have that spark, that curiosity, that asking the questions, that thinking outside the box,” Ripa said of her students.
These young inventors are part of an enrichment program for gifted fourth and fifth graders. Twice a week, they come to this classroom to work on their creations, born from a problem they want to solve.
Caitlin Trutnau created a desk with reenforced rubber flaps that fold down and form a safe enclosure to protect kids from an intruder in the classroom.
“We noticed that desks weren’t very safe as is, and we thought of a way that it can be safer,” she said.
Julie Fredericksen invented a high-top sneaker that can be turned into a high heel with a simple screw-on piece.
“Whenever I buy a high top, I always want a high heel, and so it gets my closet really messy and stuff," said Fredericksen. "So now, with the combination of both of them, it takes up less space.”
Students compete with other students in town, as part of an Invention Convention, with winners taking their inventions to a state competition.
But for their teacher, it’s less about the final product, and more about critical thinking, problem solving, and dealing with failure when the inventions don’t quite work out the first time.
“We don’t teach our children to fail successfully, and I think it’s not just my children, it’s all children. We don’t teach them how to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start all over again,” said Ripa.