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John Muir: invent, design and make

Subject area: Technology, Social Studies, Expressive Arts

Experiences and outcomes: SOC 3-02a, TCH 0-12a, TCH 0-14a, TCH 3-14a, EXA 3-06a

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, such as John Logie Baird, who invented the TV. 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

The following websites will provide additional information for your class.

National Library of Scotland – Scottish Science Hall of Fame(this will open in a new window)

Print the information about famous Scottish scientists from the National Library of Scotland website and circulate or display the information directly onto a whiteboard.

Blacklemag(this will open in a new window)

Up-to-the-minute information on sustainable design and technology.