Girl Who Built an Ocean

Girl Who Built an Ocean tells the story of one of history’s original makers, Jeanne Villepreux. Never heard of her? That’s not surprising. At the turn of the nineteenth century (born in 1794), girls were not admitted to a university or really expected to do anything other than marry and raise a family. Jeanne came from a family of makers, a seamstress mother, and a shoemaker father, so making things just seemed natural. Jeanne followed her mother’s lead and went to Paris to make dresses. Her artistic and original creations were well received. She eventually married and moved to Sicily, near the sea. Her natural curiosity lead her to make inventions that solved problems that involved learning about marine animals. I won’t give away everything, but she came up with inventions still in use today.

This book is a perfect model for any makerspace activity. Jeanne identified problems and created multiple iterations of products to solve them. she had no education and few people gave her credit for her work, but her satisfaction seemed to come from solving the problems, not the recognition that she had done something exceptional.

This book would be a great kick-off for a maker club or free choice maker time. It is a great template for teaching the steps of the Engineering Design Process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.

I highly recommend this title to anyone who thinks engineering design is too hard. Jeanne Villepreux blazed the trail armed only with her own mind and imagination. We and all our students are similarly equipped. Follow her example and give it a try.

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