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Mr Stickability

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To recognize the determination involved in being convinced of one’s ideas.

Preparation and materials


  1. Have you ever tried to make something and it just didn’t work out as expected?

    Perhaps it was a cake. It looked light and delicious in the recipe book, but came out of the oven flat and hard. Maybe it was a science experiment and the results were not as you expected. It is easy to feel disappointed and discouraged when this happens, perhaps even to feel like giving up the whole idea.

  2. Ask the children if they have ever watched Dragon’s Den, the TV programme on which would-be inventors and entrepreneurs try to sell their ideas to a group of extremely experienced businesspeople. This takes real determination and courage!

  3. Spencer Silver would have been familiar with all these feelings. He was an American scientist, a chemist for an American company called 3M. 

    His story begins in 1968 when he was attempting to develop an adhesive. The glue he was trying to make had to be stronger and tougher than anything previously produced. Sadly, the result of his experiments and trials had neither of these qualities! Instead, he had created a new substance that, when attached to surfaces, could be peeled off it easily, but still remain sticky. 

    No one was interested in it, but Spencer Silver felt sure that this was an important discovery nonetheless. So, for years he struggled to find a use for this adhesive and interest others in developing it. ‘I got to be known as Mr Persistent’, he said. 

    Eight years later, in 1974, another scientist was having problems of a rather different nature. Arthur Fry’s hobby was singing. Choir practice was on a Wednesday night, at which time he would bookmark his pages with little strips of paper.

    Show the children the book with the paper bookmarks in it.

    Come Sunday, these had usually all fallen out and he was left looking rather like an absent-minded professor!

    Arthur Fry was at a seminar and met Spencer Silver and they started chatting about Spencer’s glue. Suddenly, Arthur Fry had a eureka moment! What if they could make a bookmark that would stick to paper without falling off but would not damage it?

    So it was that Post-It notes were born. 

    Show the children some Post-It notes.

  4. Ask the children how many of them have used these?

    At first, not everyone saw the value of this invention, but, very quickly, as Post-it notes came to be used to communicate around offices and so on, Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry were left gasping at the success of their venture.

Time for reflection

Mr Stickability could have easily given up on his invention. He must have often felt disappointed and disillusioned when people were unenthusiastic about his project.

Have you ever felt like this about anything you have tried to do? 

Dear God, 
You have made us creative beings. 
We thank you for our creative minds and the many things we have yet to discover in life. 
Help us to develop determination and commitment. 


‘I am planting my feet in the footsteps’ (Come and Praise, 103)

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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