Becky's Bright Idea Part 1
This is a true story about a girl called Becky who had a very bright idea when she was 10 years old.
Becky was just a normal girl and lived with a normal family in a normal town in America.
One normal day after school Becky’s mum took her shopping. Her mum had to leave her in the car just for a few minutes while she popped into one of the shops. Now Becky was left on her own and thought that she would try and finish off her maths homework. But, they had taken so long shopping that it had got dark outside. Becky wondered how she would be able to do her homework in the dark.
“Well, I don’t have a torch,” she said to herself. “And I don’t want to open the car door to make the light come on. I wish there was some way to be able to read in the dark without turning a light on...”
And that’s when this normal girl had an extraordinary idea.
When she got home she asked her dad whether he knew how glow in the dark Frisbees worked, which she had seen people playing with before. He told her that most of the time, it is just a normal plastic Frisbee painted with a special paint called phosphorescent paint. The next day, Becky’s dad took her to the shops and they returned with a big pot of phosphorescent paint.
Now this paint has a very special property. When this paint is exposed to light it begins to glow very, very faintly. It is so faint that you normally cannot see it in daylight. But if you take this kind of paint out of the light, the glow stays with it and it carries on glowing in the dark. Its a bit like charging a battery. Leave the paint in the light and its glow charges up. The longer you leave it out, the longer and brighter it will glow.
So Becky took the paint and began experimenting by painting sheets of normal paper. She put a little on, left it to dry and then took it to the bathroom, turned off the lights, and looked at it glow. The first few were very dim, and did not glow enough. Then she put on a lot of paint, but that got too thick and clumpy and damaged the paper. Finally, she put on just enough so that when it dried hard the paper was firm, but flexible, and when it was dark it glowed with a strange green glow. Then, she took her glowing sheet and slid it underneath a page in her book and to her surprise you could see everything on the paper lit up from behind!
“Wow! Mum! Dad! I’ve done it! I’ve done it!” she shouted from the bathroom. “I’ve invented The Glo-Sheet!”
And this was Becky’s Bright Idea. All of a sudden, she had invented something really useful that no one had ever thought of before.
- If you were Becky, what would you do next?
Once the responses to the task question have been collected in a mind map, there are two common ways that this session can now go:
- This session can explore happiness and wellbeing. Once you have the responses to the task quesiton recorded, ask:
- Which option would make Becky happiestThis should lead them to discussion of what happiness is, and one can move the debate on to:
- How important is happiness?
- What is happiness?
- Another route to take is patenting. Someone will probably say ‘keep it a secret’ in answer to the task question, but even if they don’t, you can move them on by asking ‘how would Becky stop people stealing her idea?’ Often younger children will not have been introduced to this term or its meaning before, so you may need to say something like:
Her parents were very impressed and they were sure that lots of people would be interested in her invention. So two years later they got something called a patent. Once an idea has a patent it means that only the inventor can make copies of it and sell it. If someone tries to steal the idea, the person with the patent can make sure they get punished, just like any other kind of theft. A lot of people think that this is very important because it protects inventors and their inventions from fakes and copies. So once an inventor patents an idea everyone else has to ask their permission before they can use the idea. Often, inventors like Becky can get rich from selling their ideas and inventions.
Then we have 3 examples, to be introduced separately, one at a time:
- If you had invented Becky’s Glo-Sheet, would you patent it or not? Why?
- If you had invented a fun new game, would you patent it or not? Why?
- If you had invented a life saving medicine, would you patent it or not? Why?
Each example is more controversial than the last, and the most philosophically interesting is the final question. The obivous conflict is between ownership of an idea vs. benefit. But there are plenty of real lie examples of medicines being patented which you can explain to the children if they need some help, emphasising the fact that once the medicine is patented if someone cannot afford it, then they cannot get it.