There is a common misconception in our world, we all hold this belief to one extent or another, and you might have even said it to your kids. “Back then people weren’t as smart as us, so they did (fill in the blank thing) because (fill in assumption for reason).” When we take the time to look at history, there are a lot of very intelligent people who did not have the benefit of our years of history and the knowledge of people who came before them. This is why I so often teach science as I teach history lessons.
Let’s look at ancient man and the amazing structures they built
This year my children are studying ancient history, and back then we had The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In no particular order, they are: The Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Great Pyramids at Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Artemis, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Just with these seven buildings, we have a plethora of science lessons.
- The Lighthouse of Alexandria- How do you create a light that can be seen for a distance without modern fuels? How do you create the sub-structure to hold up the lighthouse?
- The Great Pyramids at Giza- How do you haul stones weighing several tons without complex machines? There’s the engineering required to construct these pyramids without mortar!
- The Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia- Both of these statues were reported to be large, at least 50 feet tall. That takes engineering to create something that doesn’t fall over. You can experiment with different materials, were the statues hollow metal molding (like the Colossus was rumored to be) or were they carved from stone?
- The Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus- how do you create a massive marble temple that bears the weight of all that? What is the proper distribution of columns to support the roof?
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon– How do you water all of those plants? Supposedly it was a step pyramid, so you need to design a watering system that will go uphill. What plants will compliment each other? Different plants require a different amount of watering and acidity level in the soil, that gets into botany.
Want to see some specific examples of incorporating ancient history and science together played out?
- Archimedes and the science of displacement
- Archimedes Ostomachion math
- Archimedes and surface tension
- How to mummify a chicken
- How to build a Roman Road
- Ancient Egyptian math
Ancient history is an easy time period to think about combining history and science lessons together. It’s where I most often pull this out, but you can combine the two subjects in any time period.
More history science lessons to try out
As you move through history, look for the scientists and see if you can recreate their discoveries, or look at some of the architectural features of the era to see if you can recreate them as science lessons. Try to recreate their trades, what works to dye cloth? What can you use to make ink? All of these are based in science and make for some fun history/science lessons.
To get you thinking about the possibilities, here’s a small list of ideas:
- Build a DaVinci bridge
- Make a water clock
- Experiment with catapults
- Underwater archaeology, can you raise the Hunley?
- World War 2 bombing run– the aircraft and advances in technology for World War 2 could make an extensive unit all by itself
- Cereal Box Drawbridge
- Make a char cloth
- Medieval chemistry
- Glass blowing
As you start to think, you’ll find your imagination flowing and you’ll discover an endless source for science experiments and projects in your history lessons.
Teach history and science through the lives of scientists
This is probably the easiest and most obvious method. There’s even entire curriculum devoted to this. I’ll also freely admit, my brain doesn’t work this way, so I’ve never done it, instead I’ll share with you Heather’s great suggestions for teaching science/history this way. First is her take on teaching scientist’s lives with gifted kids (it’s super awesome and gets me ideas). This is her second post on teaching history through science with even more great book suggestions for inspiration.
There are a plethora of ideas to teach history and science together. They complement each other very well. My suggestions are actually what I came up with after a very brief bit of brainstorming, and I’ve got loads more ideas on my Pinterest boards to give you more inspiration (and just something to flat out steal and use in your homeschool).