Academy of Applied Science
PLEASE MEET: Joyce Kenne
Surrounded by albums filled with 15 years worth of photos and press clippings, annual programs and other memorabilia from NEW HAMPSHIRE YOUNG INVENTORS celebrations, Young Inventors Programs (YIP), Odyssey of the Mind and Camp Invention is Joyce Kenne without whose dedication and unselfish commitment these programs would not have been so bright. Now retired, the former Amherst, N.H., middle school librarian spoke to us in her home about her life-long dedication to young inventors and how they are taught.
SPARKS: What brought you to help found the Young Inventors Program?
Joyce Kenne: Invention excites me. So much of education is hard for kids to grasp. Invention allows the young person to contemplate a problem and bring it to fruition with a hands-on solution. Critical thinking, problem solving, brainstorming, and other such skills all dovetail together for the young inventor.
SPARKS: Was there one event that served as a catalyst for you in the founding of YIP?
J.K.: It was at an "Invent America" conference for teachers in Washington, D.C. in 1986 where, sitting by state delegations, I met and talked with fellow New Hampshire educators, Linda Harris, Jane Lacasse, Sue Meadows, Mary Gile and others who shared my interest in invention. We very much wanted to bring back to New Hampshire what we had learned at the conference, so those in attendance, plus Steve Caney, independent inventor and author, formed a consortium. Our first Young Inventors Celebration was held not many months later in June of 1987.
SPARKS: What do you see as the major hurdles in establishing an invention program in elementary schools?
J.K.: You need a point person in each school who is willing to work hard, who is a generalist and who will make the time commitment that is required. This role was a natural for me, with my personality, my position as librarian and the support I received from the principals with whom I worked.
SPARKS: What are the challenges for classroom teachers?
J.K.: Many teachers think that problem solving and creative thinking skill building is an add on. They need to know that you can teach problem solving skills all year long with your classes. It can be incorporated into your daily teaching. Books can be selected with problem solving themes. Then, when it comes time specifically for the invention piece, you have prepared the way. The Young Inventors Celebration in the spring is the goal of the yearlong, on-going activity.
SPARKS: What do you see as the future for inventive thinking programs in our schools?
J.K.: There are no easy answers to give us success, but we are clearly not doing enough. Teachers need to see invention as a hands-on activity with the kids doing everything and finding out what happens next. Teachers do not have all the answers. True learning is giving kids permission to make mistakes. Learning can be fun.
SPARKS: What sparks your passion for this subject?
J.K.: My passion comes from the excitement of watching kids solve problems and meet with success through competition and through meeting challenges.