Sarah’s Diary Episode Thirteen

Jenny wanted to follow up on the previous class with a diary entry from March 1, 1889. “In this diary entry I want you to tell me why Hiram asked the children to undertake this challenge. Here’s the diary entry.”

“Time to get the seeds out for each of us to plant our own corn plot. Each of us collected seeds from last year’s crop, and Dad saved them for us to plant our own plot this year. We compete to see who gets the best corn yield. It’s tough beating Luke. He just seems to understand how to select seeds and nurture them for a great yield. This year Matthew will get to pick seeds to plant. Each of us will give Matthew some of our seeds.”

“Now that you’ve heard about the corn challenge, I’d like each of you to write down the process you would use in selecting the seeds you would save to plant for next year. I realize that none of you are majoring in agriculture, but you are studying innovation so tell me what you would do.”

Jenny gave the students 15 minutes to develop their strategies. Then she divided the class into groups of four students. There were 8 groups in total. “Now I want you to present your strategy to each of the classmates in each group. Rank the strategies from 4 being the best to 1 being the weakest.”

Jenny continued the competition until there were two finalists and an eventual winner. “Now tell me what made the winner stand out?” she asked. She recorded the selection criteria on the board as generalizations.

  • There was a set of criteria for selecting the seeds, not just picking the biggest ear of corn.
  • The seeds that were selected had different strengths according to the criteria allowing tests of what specific criteria worked best.
  • There was documentation from one year to the next that could be used in the selection.
  • When the seeds were planted, a map of the plot was produced so that the results could be compared to the criteria.

Jenny concluded class by saying: “You’ve just learned an essential truth about how an innovator works. In all my work on capturing the history of inventors, I’ve yet to find one that didn’t have a careful plan for how they went about developing their innovation. Those plans had some common features:

  • They had criteria for measuring success
  • They had a way to conduct informed trial and error experiments
  • They had a documentation strategy to record the results for each trial
  • They looked at a diversity of candidates to test and make a plan for conducting these tests.

Now think about the children’s approach. How many do you think would have used a plan like the above? Do you think that could be why Luke won each year?

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“A planned my success. I knew it was going to happen.” – Erykah Badu (Musician)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.