We have been reading books about hats and inventors in second grade library. The first book we read was Boss of the Plains: The Hat that Won the West by Laurie Carlson with pictures by Holly Meade. It tells the true story of how J.B. Stetson invented the Boss of the Plains hat to suit the rough life of cowboys and gold miners out West. When we finished reading the book, we asked students to identify the needs that existed and the features of the hats that meet those needs. For example, the big brim kept the rain off their back and the sun out of their eyes.
Next we read Stormy's Hat: Just Right for a Railroad Man by Eric A. Kimmel with pictures by Andrea U'Ren. This book shows how Stormy tried many hats to find one that would fit with his job as a train engineer. After many failures he describes his ideal hat to his wife, Ada, who makes it for him. The hat caught on with other engineers and can still be seen in train yards today. Once again students identified needs for the job and features of the hat that met them. These included fabric that doesn't catch on fire and is easy to clean and a tight fit so that it doesn't blow off when the engineer pokes his head out the train window.
Finally we read a tall tale based loosely on how Levi Strauss invented jeans to withstand the rough life in the gold fields. We used this story to discuss qualities that make a good inventor. The students came up with many traits including: patience, confidence, perseverance, imagination, ability to brainstorm and get feedback from others, and not being afraid to mess up. We had a lot of fun reading about these inventors and the second graders are inspired to try inventing themselves!