Thinking Like an Inventor: Celebrating the Imaginative History of Innovation

February 11 is National Inventors’ Day. In 1983, then-President Reagan launched February 11 as National Inventors’ Day in the United States, as it coincided with the birthday of Thomas Edison—a celebrated inventor. The goal of this holiday is to celebrate the contributions made by inventors throughout history. In Edison’s case, he is most widely celebrated as the father of the electric lightbulb.

For this National Inventors’ Day, and in honor of Thomas Edison himself, we are asking students to celebrate the development of electrical technology by researching and creating a timeline.

Create an Electricity Technology Timeline

Find out more about the technological developments that led to the use of electricity as a source of power in homes around the world. Using the Internet or library resources, try to find out:

  • how developments in the understanding of electromagnetic energy and static electricity led up to Benjamin Franklin’s ideas and experiments;
  • how Benjamin Franklin’s experiments advanced scientists’ understanding of electricity and electrical currents;
  • what technologies needed to be developed to generate current electricity and distribute it to homes and other buildings;
  • what new electrical machines and devices were invented that made use of electricity in the home;
  • what new technologies are used to provide electricity in homes and other buildings.

  • Use this information to create a timeline of important events that led up to people’s ability to use electricity in their homes and other buildings. Include the dates of technological developments, scientific experiments, and inventions, along with short descriptive labels. You may wish to include photographs representing some of the more important events. Share your timeline with the teacher and classmates.

    For students with a more creative mind, have them research the life and achievements of Thomas Edison—or another inventor of their choosing—and write a play that showcases this. You can download the instructions for this hands-on activity, taken from our Technology & Globalization ready-made lesson plan here.

    And for more activities related to National Inventors’ Day, check out some of our past blog posts:

  • Design and build a rubber band race car with our November 11, 2019 blog post.
  • Get started thinking like an innovator with steps outlined in our January 7, 2019 blog post.
  • Inspire students to start thinking like an innovator with teaching techniques presented in our September 24, 2018 blog post.
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