Gina Manola is managing partner of Playology, a product development company that specializes is producing creative play and educational toys and games in a back-to-basics, eco-friendly way. She is also the founder of CALICO, an award-winning design studio. Although busy with her successful businesses and family, she carved time out to share the joy of inventing and creating with kids at her local library and schools. The kids love what she is doing and others asked about it, so she created a template that anyone can take to a school, library or at home and lead the kids through the process.
Gina, please tell us what inspired you and how the program is progressing this fall.
"The inspiration came from the program itself. The Young Inventor Challenge, part of the Chicago Goy & Game Fair (ChiTag), offers kids a unique way to put their imagination and hands to work. It's play with a purpose—and the purpose is play!
I also saw how the program could be a benefit to schools and home-schooling families. The steps a child goes through to complete the Challenge involve planning, strategic thinking, prototyping, play-testing and presenting. The format of the program provides opportunities for teachers to meet curriculum goals in a new and fun way.
I was invited to introduce the program to Next Generation School (NGS) in Champaign, IL. They have truly embraced the program and even expanded it by offering bi-weekly meet-ups for kids and families to get together and brainstorm and play-test their ideas. Ann Quackenbush, a teacher at NGS has also coordinated field trips to a local toy store where they were able to ask questions of the manager, such as, “What makes a great toy or game? The school also arranged a visit to the University of Illinois’ Fab Lab where students were given the opportunity to try out fabrication methods.
My business partner, Jill Gaynor, lives in Los Angeles and is working to introduce the program on the West Coast. Our hope is that the Young Inventor Challenge will become a highly anticipated and fun addition to school curriculums and after-school programs across the country. We hope that in sharing the easy to follow presentation that we created, that every teacher and parent will have the tools they need to provide this opportunity for their children.
Seeing children’s eyes light up as they shout, “I have an idea!” is what it’s all about. The Young Inventor Challenge empowers kids to think big and make new connections all in the name of play."