Wondering what to do with a rainy winter day? If you’re a Brownie Girl Scout interested in earning your Inventor badge, come visit Draper Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History, or one of our Spark!Lab National Network sites around the country! You’ll work alongside other visitors sketching, creating, and tweaking their inventions; exchange ideas; and share your inventions with others.
To complete the steps for your the Inventor Badge during a visit to one of our Spark!Lab sites, first read The Brownie Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting for details on the Inventor badge, and then use this blog post to help connect those steps to Spark!Lab.
Not near a Spark!Lab site? You can also do a lot of these things at home or at a troop meeting.
Step 1: Warm up your inventor's mind.
- Spark!Lab is full of ways to use things differently than you might have seen before. Take a look around. Do you see an object that will help you make up five new uses for a box or find five new ways to use or play with a tool or a toy, as the Brownie Girl's Guide suggests?
- If there’s a sketching activity available, try drawing your own inventive ideas to come up with fun and different things you can make from circles. You can download a template or make your own!
- Can you think of a time when you used something in a new and creative way? Share the story with someone in Spark!Lab.
Step 2: Find lots of ways to solve the same problem.
- Read 2 books about inventors and inventions. Use this time to explore how others have solved problems in the past.
- What are things that exist already to make our lives easier or better?
- What would you invent now to help?
- What kind of inventions have women and girls made?
- Visit the Places of Invention, Inventive Minds, or Object Project exhibitions near Spark!Lab, and explore all of the things in our everyday lives that are inventions. What’s your favorite invention that you use a lot?
- Take some time to explore the Spark!Lab and complete some of the challenges available. Talk out, list, or sketch lots of ways you could solve a problem, and then create two of your solutions.
Step 3: Make a needs list.
- While you’re working on your needs list, see what others say! Ask your troop, other Spark!Lab visitors, an adult who came to the museum with you, or a Spark!Lab staff member whether they have seen any needs that you haven’t thought of. Are there any surprising differences?
- Use this time to think about some inventions that would help you or people in your life. Is there anyone in your school, troop, or family who might need an invention to make their life better?
Step 4: Solve a problem.
- While you’re working on your invention, make sure to try it out by testing it or asking other people what they think. Does your invention do what you want it to do?
- Take some time to tweak your invention. Do you need to change or add something to make it work better?
Step 5: Share your invention.
- Share your invention with your troop, friends, or family. Explain to them your process: How did you come up with your idea? Who will it help? Where will you sell it? Why is it a good idea?
- See if your Spark!Lab has a special area where you could record a “pitch,” a short video explaining what your invention is and who would use it. Or ask an adult who came with you to the museum to help you record your pitch!
General Notes for Visiting Spark!Lab
Draper Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History: The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is open every day (except December 25) from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Spark!Lab is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Monday, or check the museum’s website for updated information in case of weather or other unscheduled closings. We recommend that you visit Spark!Lab first and then move onto the rest of the museum.
Want to bring a Scout troop? Spark!Lab operates on a first-come, first-served basis and does not take reservations, but we can generally accommodate groups with little to no wait time. Be sure to review our detailed information on visiting with a group.
Spark!Lab National Network Sites: There may be a Spark!Lab where you live! Check the list of current Spark!Lab National Network members, and visit one near you. Be sure to visit the host museum’s website for current hours and information about your visit. Each Spark!Lab is a little bit different, and may have different activities, reflecting their museum collections and local community.