Today is Thomas Edison 164th birthday, or would be if he were alive. It’s also National Inventors Day.
This is a great day to invent something. Here’s a fun lesson with minimal preparation:
- Ask students to talk with their neighbors for three minutes about irritating things that come up in their lives.
- List a good number of their suggestions on the board.
- Have students form small groups and ask each group to choose one of the pet peeves listed.
- Ask each group to come up with a solution for the irritating thing they’ve chosen. If the inventions they come up with aren’t possible with current technology, students should list the inventions or new technologies that would be required for success with their invention. For example, if I decide to overcome the frustration of hard to open milk cartons with a new design for the milk carton, but my new design assumes the existence of zippers that can be inserted into glass, I need to specify that.
- Have students create diagrams or models of their solutions, using poster board, Model Magic, or SketchUp. Ask students to present their inventions to the class, and film the presentations.
- ThomasEdison.com has a nice biography of Edison which should be a comfortable read for middle school and up. There’s also a gallery of photos of Edison.
- Edsitement provides interesting background that will help students get a sense of the state of technology in Edison’s time, and therefore of the difference his work made.
- The Library of Congress has a lesson plan exploring Edison’s role in bringing electricity to America, a change as significant as the internet in our day.
- FirstLadies.org suggests having students research and write about Edison’s inventions.
- Thomas Edison for Kids explores the relationship between science and invention.
- The Black Inventors Museum has information about Lewis Latimer, a member of Edison’s team whose work on electric light bulbs was essential to the practical use of electric lights.
- Our Heroes Lesson Plans has ideas for several different activities that can be used to study any individual hero, and Thomas Edison is certainly in that category.