TeachersFirst's Inventors and Inventions Resources

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Invent and Innovate! This collection of reviewed resources from TeachersFirst is selected to help teachers, parents, and students learn about inventors and inventions. Use these resources for science or social studies lessons and activities about innovation and invention, in observance of National Inventors' Day (celebrated on February 11, Thomas Edison's birthday),  or at any time during the school year. Whether you are simply learning about the history of invention or planning a schoolwide Invention Convention, these resources will provide inspiration and project possibilities.

 

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The Wright Stuff - PBS

Grades
6 to 12
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From the PBS American Experience Site, this site includes both RealAudio clips and transcripts of interviews with two historians about the Wright Brothers, a Quick Time movie of a recreation...more
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From the PBS American Experience Site, this site includes both RealAudio clips and transcripts of interviews with two historians about the Wright Brothers, a Quick Time movie of a recreation of the Wright Brothers' flight, and narrative about the PBS American Experience program on the Wright Brothers. "Read More Learn More" is simply a (non-hyperlinked) bibliography.

tag(s): aviation (39), flight (36), wright brothers (25)

In the Classroom

Use the audio interviews as a group activity during a lesson on the Wright Brothers and the history of flight. Introduce this site on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Then have students explore this site independently or in small groups. To show what they have learned from this site, challenge students to create an online graphic to share using Tabblo reviewed here.

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Centennial of Flight: Rediscovering the Challenges of Flight - NASA

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2 to 12
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Click on "Educator Resources" for a collection of lesson plans focused on the NASA project to replicate the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flight. Includes information on meeting national standards,...more
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Click on "Educator Resources" for a collection of lesson plans focused on the NASA project to replicate the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flight. Includes information on meeting national standards, assessment activities, profiles on famous people related to flight and further internet resources.

tag(s): aviation (39), flight (36), wright brothers (25)

In the Classroom

Lesson plans focus on all grade levels from K-12.

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Historic Wings - Feature Stories

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6 to 12
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If you'd like to incorporate elements of the history of aviation into a unit on science or history, this site's nice collection of features on significant aviation history events could...more
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If you'd like to incorporate elements of the history of aviation into a unit on science or history, this site's nice collection of features on significant aviation history events could be useful. There's a nice selection of items that spread over the years from the 1920s through the present. There could be more depth, but the essential information is presented well.

tag(s): air (163), aircraft (24), aviation (39), explorers (61)

In the Classroom

Each of the individual web explorations could easily be used to introduce separate units within a history class. When applicable, select the exploration you would like students to work on and save it as a favorite on classroom computers. Have students go through the information and make a quick and small poster to show what they have learned. We recommend an online poster creator such as Padlet (reviewed here). The site offers information commonly left out of textbooks, but still relevant enough to apply to the Standards of Learning. They definitely make for interesting activators or introductions to units.
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How Everyday Things Are Made - Stanford University

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6 to 12
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Stanford University's Center for Manufacturing has created a series of web-based animations and short movies showing how commonly used items from blue jeans to aircraft are manufactured....more
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Stanford University's Center for Manufacturing has created a series of web-based animations and short movies showing how commonly used items from blue jeans to aircraft are manufactured. While some of the technologies are sophisticated, the presentations are sufficiently simple that they could be used for middle school or even some elementary students.

tag(s): air (163), aircraft (24), inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Try this one as an add-on for an inventions or technologies unit, or take a "slice" as a science illustration.
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Eastman House -International Museum of Photography and Film

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6 to 12
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This site highlights the offerings of the George Eastman House by providing information on each of the museum's resident and traveling exhibits, as well as information about George...more
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This site highlights the offerings of the George Eastman House by providing information on each of the museum's resident and traveling exhibits, as well as information about George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak company, and his historic estate in Rochester, NY. There are even 360 degree cameras for viewing the rooms and gardens of the estate. The Education and Research section has video demonstrations of historical photographic processes, and each of the exhibit explanations provide useful information on the history of photography.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101), photography (160)

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Wright Flyer Project

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6 to 12
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The 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight is in fall of 2003, and this site documents an effort to replicate that achievement by replicating the original Wright Flyer....more
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The 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight is in fall of 2003, and this site documents an effort to replicate that achievement by replicating the original Wright Flyer. In turns out to be more difficult than even the experts imagined. Learn more here.

tag(s): air (163), aviation (39), inventors and inventions (101), wright brothers (25)

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Animated Engines - privately published

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4 to 8
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Looking for a nice animated illustration to add to your discussion of inventors and technology? This site offers accurate "wire-frame" illustrations of how several different types of...more
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Looking for a nice animated illustration to add to your discussion of inventors and technology? This site offers accurate "wire-frame" illustrations of how several different types of internal combustion and steam engines operate. Each includes a step-by-step explanation of how the engine operates, making it easy to compare differences among engine designs. Even grownups will like this one.

tag(s): industrialization (15), inventors and inventions (101)

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History of Recording Technology

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6 to 12
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The design of this privately developed site shows its age, but users will find abundant content and visuals here. It just takes a little work. The site covers the evolution ...more
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The design of this privately developed site shows its age, but users will find abundant content and visuals here. It just takes a little work. The site covers the evolution of technologies ranging from the earliest wax recordings to today's DVDs. Along the way, users can learn about the people and processes that have helped sound and video recording develop.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Teachers may want to guide their students' use of this site. This site is a little text-heavy, but would be a great way to show the progression of the music industry over the modern era. Share this site on an interactive whiteboard or projector as an introduction to this unit or as review.

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Real Design - Channel 4

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6 to 12
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This British site explains how industrial designers envision and execute projects ranging from large architectural efforts to product design and more. The content will challenge younger...more
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This British site explains how industrial designers envision and execute projects ranging from large architectural efforts to product design and more. The content will challenge younger students, and high schoolers interested in technology will find the guided interactive explanations really useful.

tag(s): architecture (83), design (84), inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Try this one if you're teaching technology education or have a gifted student searching for a project.
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Invention at Play - Smithsonian Institution

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6 to 12
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Don't miss this engaging exploration from the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for Invention. Learn why play is important for both adults and children, and discover the essential relationship...more
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Don't miss this engaging exploration from the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for Invention. Learn why play is important for both adults and children, and discover the essential relationship between play, creativity, and invention. The site is loaded with interactive examples and games, and those with broadband connections will enjoy well produced video interviews and explanations.

tag(s): behavior (46), child development (25), creativity (109), inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Try this one if you work with gifted students or are planning a unit on invention or inventors.
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Transportation and Public Transit

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3 to 6
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Here's an elementary-level introduction to the history of transportation from a public transit group. The focus is on how we move people, as opposed to products, but the content would...more
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Here's an elementary-level introduction to the history of transportation from a public transit group. The focus is on how we move people, as opposed to products, but the content would fit well with a unit on communities, cities, or how urban planning works. The site includes a quiz for each of its several units.

tag(s): transportation (40)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a learning center or station to help students review information about a unit on transportation. The chapter quizzes at the end of the unit make a great formative assessment, to see where students are and where they need the most help. This is an excellent source for elementary school teachers!

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Edison's Miracle of Light - PBS

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6 to 12
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This companion to an American Experience episode doesn't offer a lot for teachers, but there's a good timeline showing Edison's life and work, as well as a gallery of some ...more
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This companion to an American Experience episode doesn't offer a lot for teachers, but there's a good timeline showing Edison's life and work, as well as a gallery of some of his most important inventions. You'll need to find other resources to tell the full story, though.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Use the teachers guide on this site for free lesson plans and ideas on how to incorporate this site into your classroom. Very useful for the US history teacher.

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FIRST Competition - FIRST

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4 to 12
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Created by inventor Dean Kamen, this competition encourages students in different age groups to team up and tackle challenges in robotics, physics, and engineering. The site offers...more
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Created by inventor Dean Kamen, this competition encourages students in different age groups to team up and tackle challenges in robotics, physics, and engineering. The site offers detailed instructions as well as information on previous competitions - including some examples.

tag(s): robotics (25)

In the Classroom

If you have students who are serious competitors, this would be a great challenge.

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K-W-L - A Strategy for Learning

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4 to 12
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While this exercise is from a site on science and optics, the KWL strategy - a structured form of questioning and answering - is applicable to the study of many ...more
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While this exercise is from a site on science and optics, the KWL strategy - a structured form of questioning and answering - is applicable to the study of many topics other than science. Teachers will like this one because it outlines multiple strategies for both inquiry and presentation, giving examples from science, literature, and art.

tag(s): inquiry (37), inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

If you're not familiar KWL, this is a great starting point.

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Inventors of the Industrial Revolution - TeachersFirst

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5 to 12
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This unit provides an on-line introduction to inventors and inventions of the industrial revolution in England and the United States. In addition to information on key inventors and...more
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This unit provides an on-line introduction to inventors and inventions of the industrial revolution in England and the United States. In addition to information on key inventors and their inventions, there are interactive activities designed for student involvement, timelines, and an interactive quiz. An extensive list of "invention links" lets students learn more about inventions and inventors.This unit is written for middle and high school but is also adaptable for upper elementary.

tag(s): evolution (100), industrial revolution (25), inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

See the lesson ideas page for ways to use this on your interactive whiteboard or with students working on their own. There are several ideas for projects and competitions to engage, challenge, and assess. You will definitely want to share this link on your teacher web page as a review tool, as well.

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Inventing Entertainment - the Edison Recordings - Library of Congress

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6 to 12
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Much of the content in this Library of Congress site about Thomas Edison and his phonographs is beyond the scope of middle schoolers. However, there are sound recordings from the ...more
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Much of the content in this Library of Congress site about Thomas Edison and his phonographs is beyond the scope of middle schoolers. However, there are sound recordings from the original machines that let students listen to the product of Edison's work, and the basic biographical information will be useful for those studying inventors. Explore this one in some depth; there's a lot here.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101)

In the Classroom

Download some of the sounds and recordings from the database, and use them as part of a learning center during a unit on Inventions & Inventors. Have students listen to the recordings (make sure to include headphones) on classroom computers, writing a short reflection afterwards about what they heard and what their impression was. Students could also compare and contrast the quality of the recordings, noting the vast differences in technology between then and now. This would be a very interesting resource for a US history classroom!

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Whole Cloth - Smithsonian Institution

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6 to 12
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This site was developed by the Smithsonian as part of this year's History Day competition, which deals with the role of invention in American history. The site traces the way ...more
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This site was developed by the Smithsonian as part of this year's History Day competition, which deals with the role of invention in American history. The site traces the way in which advances in the manufacturing of textiles created wholesale changes in American industry and social structures. Among the results: Once women were freed from the need to make clothing by hand, other opportunities became available. Good site for students interested in history day projects, or for use in a history or social studies curriculum.

tag(s): industrialization (15), inventors and inventions (101), women (101)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free lesson plans on topics from early industrialization to the 20th century! The late 19th century is a difficult time period for students seeing as it is so technological and very little social history, so these units provide some interest and intrigue where there may not have been before.

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Innovative Lives - Smithsonian Institution

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6 to 12
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Inventors didn't just live in the past! This site from Smithsonian introduces several dozen men and women whose inventions - in science, biology, engineering, etc. - have made major...more
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Inventors didn't just live in the past! This site from Smithsonian introduces several dozen men and women whose inventions - in science, biology, engineering, etc. - have made major contributions to their fields. Students working on inventor projects will find these bios a welcome change from the standard fare.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101)

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Ancient Inventions -

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4 to 8
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This is a collection of inventions from antiquity compiled by students and faculty at Smith College. There are scores of ancient oddities, with photos and descriptions of each. It's...more
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This is a collection of inventions from antiquity compiled by students and faculty at Smith College. There are scores of ancient oddities, with photos and descriptions of each. It's a great site to show that people have been inventing things for centuries.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101)

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Moving Along with Simple Machines

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3 to 5
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Here's a four-week unit on simple machines developed by Georgia's Henry County Public Schools. The unit includes machine-specific activities, as well as connections to social studies,...more
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Here's a four-week unit on simple machines developed by Georgia's Henry County Public Schools. The unit includes machine-specific activities, as well as connections to social studies, language arts, and other subject areas.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (101), machines (30), simple machines (36)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free unit hosted on this site! These lesson plans would work great in an elementary school classroom that has a variety of learners, as all the different content connections increases the chance of hooking more of them into the topic. Be sure to save this site as a favorite for easy reference later on.

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