Thomas Edison did more than just create a few useful inventions; some of his over 1,000 patented creations still impact the technology we use today. Incorporating one or more Edison related activities into the classroom provides a richer understanding of the inventor’s life and important works.
The tools we use to work and play today did not develop in a vacuum; they can be traced back to significant scientific discoveries in the past. Gather a few pieces or images of technology at work today and help students trace these items back to their origin. An Edison related example is a great way to start:
iPhone music app < Mp3 player < CD player < Cassette player < 8 track player < Record player < Edison’s Phonograph
From tools used in the kitchen to the things that power our homes, vehicles and entertainment, the technology we use today has strong roots in the past and ties to Edison’s lightbulb, electricity and phonograph patents and more.
Create a Scientific Journal
One of the reasons we know so much about Edison and his time was because he was a prolific writer and recorder of his work. Extensive records of his scientific studies—both the successes and the failures—aid scholars, historians and scientists today as they work. Create a scientific journal and talk about not only documenting and sharing the successes, but the failures as well; there is much to be learned from experiments that did not work out and from the fortitude of pioneers like Edison who kept trying in the face of failure. Did you know that the Post-it® Note was invented by accident?
Edison Movie Poster
Scientist, Inventor, Writer, Businessman; the life of Thomas Edison and his accomplishments would make a great movie! What would a poster for this imaginary movie look like? This project allows students to dig a little deeper into the life of the inventor and highlight some of his greatest discoveries, achievements and challenges.
Incorporating a study of Edison into the STEAM classroom allows you to talk about the scientific process, inventions and inventors and even how technology has changed over time. Most people simply think “lightbulb” when they hear the name Thomas Edison; taking a more in-depth approach gives students a better understanding of the life of this fascinating technology pioneer.