Let the Kids Speak: Kolton, Third Grader from Colorado

One of my favorite things we did in school last year was a “history of people” project. We got to pick the person we wanted to write about, and I chose Albert Einstein. I’d heard about his inventions—like “relativity” and his other ideas that helped people invent things like TVs and computers—and I wanted to learn about him. My teacher gave us a few directions and helped us a little, but I did the drawing and found the facts myself. Then, we hung the posters all around the school. It was cool to see my Albert Einstein project every day on the way to class.


But I didn’t just decide to write about Albert Einstein because he’s interesting—I like to invent things, too. I’ve built a basketball hoop, drums, and a pinball machine all in the past week. I like to invent new ways to use everyday things, so when I’m making something I just look around and use things that are already there. So instead of just going to the store and buying a toy, I see how I can make it. I like the challenge of using what’s around me. For the basketball hoop, I used a box from a 12-pack of Sprite that I found in the recycling, and for the pinball machine, I used some twist ties and rubber bands my mom leaves in a jar in her office. I got a lot of inspiration from my Albert Einstein project because he invented so many new things and had so many new ideas. I’m not sure what I want to make next, but I definitely want to keep inventing.

Another thing I’m excited about is learning multiplication—we’re working on that right now. So far, I’ve liked it a lot because the problems get harder and harder, and even though it can sometimes be scary, I always push through so I can find the right answer. My teacher helps me by showing me different strategies for doing the problems like using number lines and repeated addition. When I’m by myself, I like to solve problems one way and then just move on, but getting the different strategies helps because I can have lots of choices. If one way doesn’t work, I can try a different way.

"Instead of just going to the store and buying a toy, I see how I can make it. I like the challenge of using what’s around me. For the basketball hoop, I used a box from a 12-pack of Sprite that I found in the recycling." —Kolton, Third Grade Student

I also really like my STEM class. We’ve already built an alarm—sort of like a fire alarm or a car alarm. We used Legos, and we had a special piece with a sensor that changes colors or makes sounds when there’s motion, like when you tip it slightly or put a finger near it. My teacher gave us a kit to start from, and then we could build on from there and add whatever we wanted. My team put about three or four sets of wheels on it and a propeller because we wanted it to sound when avalanches happened and then be able to escape the avalanches.


I usually do my inventions at home alone, so inventing with other people was different and there were lots of arguments, at first. But even though it was hard, I still like working with teams more than working by myself because other people can come up with good ideas I wouldn’t think of. I want to keep doing group projects so I can get better at it and learn more about other people’s ideas.

After school, I like to make paint and try to invent new paint colors. I cut up chalk and then mix it in with water, and it makes paint. I painted the whole driveway in front of my house once, but it washed away when it rained. I also like playing Minecraft, because it relates to the real world but then it doesn't—and I get to invent things that have never existed before. One time, I used a glitch to make a pig that pops things out of its nose like bottles or peas, just to be silly. Minecraft isn’t really like other video games because you get to build things and be creative. You can change the game around and make it look any way you want. The point of the game is to invent cool new buildings and objects. So, I guess you could say I love inventing so much that I’m inventing all the time—even when I’m playing video games. 

Read more about students' experiences in school in​ The Opportunity Myth—then take the first step by requesting your own free action guide featuring tools and advice to help more students in your community have worthwhile experiences in school. 

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP