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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Science Timelines

We tend to take for granted the science that has been with us for over a decade. Most kids cannot imagine life without refrigeration or TV. However, most of those inventions are relative newcomers in the technological timeline.

I am old enough to remember a classroom without the computer and a world without the internet. How can you put this into perspective and give kids an opportunity to imagine that they too can invent something of significance? I think it would be interesting to use a timeline.

Timelines are often the substance of wall space in social studies rooms. With a little butcher paper and a little imagination they can be a tool for creativity in science classes. A few yards of butcher paper or some taped together construction paper will form the timeline.

Next I would have the students decide on the time intervals. I like to use decades. Lots of innovations are introduced in one year and take a few years to make it into mainstream use. The computer is a good example of that. So, perhaps begin with 1900 and move all the way in 10 year sequences until 2010.

Next comes the decision of what to include. Do you want to stick with only life science or would you like to include technological innovations. My preference is the later. I know that 20 years ago the first test tube baby was born in England and that Velcro was invented 50 years ago. I would suggest putting about 5 or 6 facts on the timeline to get it started. I love color and design in these projects so I would have some photos or actual objects (like a piece of Velcro) attached to the timeline. The students can do the rest. They can search the web for interesting inventions and add their findings to the correct year.

A good place to begin is with fun science facts.

http://www.hightechscience.org/funfacts.htm

There are lots of invention timelines online. One only represents United States Inventions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_inventions

Another has a much wider focus.

http://inventors.about.com/od/timelines/a/twentieth.htm

What should emerge is a pattern of inventions that will span a century. Things that the kids thought had been around forever turn out to be only 20, 30 or 40 years old. Current discoveries are also brought up on several web sites.

The timeline is only the start. It would be great to have some sort of invention convention along with the timeline activity. If that does not match with your current unit then have the students brainstorm future inventions in a specific area. If you are studying forces and motion, then ask “what does the future hold for car safety” (motion units and investigations of car crashes go hand in hand). Perhaps you could ask the students to create a “future” section to the timeline. Mine would include a cure for cancer and perhaps a solar powered battery that lasts for months and a flying car. There are several interesting sites kids can go to for idea starters in this area.

http://inventors.about.com/od/fstartinventions/tp/Future_Techno.htm

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/486735/10_new_invention_ideas_id_like_to_see.html?cat=15

 To connect this idea to your current science curriculum ask the student to explain the science concepts that would have to be in play for the invention to work. For my flying car I would have to give a bit of information about lift and drag, forces and motion and Bernoulli’s principle, for my cancer cure I would have to mention the cell and how it replicates itself before and after cancer. There are all sorts of ways to expand this future think tank into a rich opportunity for kids to showcase their science knowledge or to dig deeper to find those connections.

Now, if only I could have one invent something that would cure spring fever, senioritis and grade my stack of quizzes for me.

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