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  • New Canaan
Student working on sole of shoe

Students design solutions to authentic problems and present their original products to a panel consisting of community members, parents, educators, and/or administrators (similar to the show “Shark Tank”). This program enables our students to develop their skills and abilities in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, creativity, and effective communication with others.

In 2016, our grade 7 science team were seeking to improve their STEM program and make it more relevant to our students.  We attended the U.S Patent and Trademark Office Teacher Institute on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property.  This experience empowered us with ideas and resources to revise the STEM curriculum.  We developed a new quarter long program in which students navigate through the design process to:

  • Define a problem:  Identify a real-world problem that affects them.
  • Conduct background research:  How are they solving the problem? What makes their solution better or different than what is already out there?
  • Establish a vision:  What is their vision? What specific goal are they trying to achieve and how will they know if they’ve been successful?
  • Build a prototype: What problems do they anticipate when building their product? What materials are needed? Test the design. Re-design. 
  • Pitch a Product: Who will they sell the product to? 
  • Target audience? Why do they understand the problem so well?  Why are they the ones to solve it?
  • Highlight the best feature of their product.
  • Where will they sell their product?

At the conclusion of the quarter students present to a panel.  The role of the panel is to provide feedback to the design team.  Their feedback will help the students to refine or think more deeply about their product and target audience.  

Over the past three years we have had some very innovative designs being “hatched” such as a headband that stores money/ ID, corrective glasses, a plate/bowl combo, and jewelry that holds/disguises safety equipment.   

This program has encouraged the community to share their areas of expertise with our students.  We have had presenters teach our students the secrets of successful advertising, the dos and don'ts of presentation design, and how to persevere and grow from failure.
The next phase of our work is to support students in their efforts to become entrepreneurs and bring their prototypes to market.  We have had some students interested in pursuing patents as well as they look to compete in national competitions.


Melinda Meyer   |   |   (203) 594-4333

  • Critical Thinking
  • Curriculum