8 Ways to Excite Your Students About Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was the world’s greatest inventor, with 1093 recorded patents. He virtually re-defined our world. In 1996 Life magazine named him the “Man of the Millennium”. His accomplishments even today annually account for about $12 trillion of the $80 trillion world economy. Economists believe his amazing achievements account for 1/4th of the world’s existing jobs. Edison is also considered the great grand daddy of modern STEM / STEAM. Here are  8 ways to excite your students about Tom Edison

1) Discover the materials used in Edison’s lightbulb

The iconic image of creativity is Edison’s light bulb. It is said he tried over 3,000 materials for the design of the light bulb filament. It was a difficult challenge; and he used some unusual materials in his first filaments. Challenge your students to discover and itemize some of the unusual materials he used.

2) Choose your favorite Edison Invention and improve it

Edison considered his invention of the phonograph his favorite however, that did not keep him from constantly trying to make it better! From in foil cylinders to wax cylinders, Edison was always looking for ways to make his inventions more user-friendly and longer lasting. Have your students choose their favorite Edison invention and brainstorm ways they could improve it!

3) Write an essay inspired by Edison’s perseverance

Edison is well known for his many inventions, but he is also known for his hard work ethic and perseverance. Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” Have your students think of a time in their life where they have learned from their mistakes and write a short essay about it!

4) Learn about STEM through Edison’s achievements

Edison is the “great grand daddy” of STEM. The way he did things and systematized invention, gave us important processes that became ingrained in the spirit of research and invention. Can your students express how Edison succeeded in science, technology, engineering, math, and brought all of them together? Consider taking field trip to Edison’s labs at the Thomas Edison National Historical to see where STEM first began.

5) Determine what makes a great inventor

Research conducted in the last 25 years has confirmed that inventors and entrepreneurs share similar traits like creativity and hard work. Examine some of today’s inventors like Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and others and compare to Edison to arrive at a list of common traits that inventors exhibit.

6) Compare and contrast Edison’s technology with today’s

Thomas Edison is credited with filing the first “electronic” patent in 1883, but we all know technology has come a long way since then. Have your students create a Venn Diagram to discover the differences between the technology Edison invented and today’s.

7) Lay out the timeline of Edison’s major achievements

Challenge your students to create a large timeline that indicates when his inventions were created and patented. Have teams of students work on each decade of his life to discover and document his achievements.

8) Uncover the power of Edison’s film patent in education

Thomas Edison’s creation and implementation of motion pictures was a worldwide phenomenon. He believed one of the first big applications for this technology was movies for educational purposes. What movie do you think would make a great class lesson? Have your students vote on a movie to view in class, write down what they learned and if they think Edison had the right idea!


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