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John Muir: invent, design and make

Subject area: Technology, Social Studies, Science

Experiences and outcomes: SOC 2-01a, SCN 2-20a, TCH 2-05a

Before you begin, ask your class to look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the section Genius John in a Brave New World, up to page 58, which describes one of John's inventions. We know there was a period in John Muir's life when he 'began a frenzy of invention. . . clocks, an anemometer, a machine to feed horses and a wake-you-up bed'. In 1860 he displayed some of his inventions at the State Fair in Madison where, newspaper reports tell us, people queued around the block to have a turn.

The aim of this lesson is to research John Muir and other Scots who have invented things, as Percy Pilcher, who invented a glider in 1897, or Dr Christina Miller, who created the first ever pure sample of phosphorus trioxide in 1928, or David Gow, the inventor of the i-Limb prosthetic hand in 2007. Following these findings your pupils' task will be to generate ideas for a new (or modified) invention that would help protect the environment. Pupils should draw and design a prototype model showing how their idea works.

Now print the Invent, Design and Make worksheet for your class to complete this activity.

Explain that because John Muir was interested in the natural world around him, if he was alive today, he would no doubt like to invent something that would help protect the environment, such as 'using pedal power to run the TV'.

Instruct your class to read the information you provide them with about famous Scottish inventors (see below) as inspiration. Then split them into groups to generate ideas of new inventions (or modifications to existing inventions) that would encourage people, or make it easier for them, to look after the natural world today. They should note down their ideas on their worksheets.

Once they have generated enough ideas they should select one each and draw it and then make a prototype model showing how it would work.

Reflecting on learning

Had learners considered:

Learners can:

Useful resources

Women in Science

From the National Library of Scotland, share this webpage with pupils to introduce them to the 'forgotten pioneers' of Scottish Science(this link will open in a new window).

Scotland's STEM Pioneers

Historic Scotland have pulled together information on key figures in Science, Medicine and Engineering in Scotland(this link will open in a new window) from across the centuries.

Scottish Inventions that Rocked the World

This guide from Scotland.org highlights famous inventions(this link will open in a new window) from Scotland. Why not use the website as a class, choosing an invention to investigate further?