Past To The Future:. The Innovationist

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Objective: Students Will Be Able To synthesize research about the American Revolution into their own lives to make a CHANGE in their world in order to affect their futures.

Big Idea

Use the PAST To CHANGE the PRESENT in order to SAVE our FUTURE

Prior Knowledge and Language Objectives

Prior Knowledge: Basic background of the American Revolution. The Major events that led up to and happened during the Revolutionary war. Basic computer skills. Being able to save files properly. Being willing to make mistakes and chances.

Language Objective: SWBAT use persuasive language in order to convince others that their ideas are worth changing the world

Technology Used

Technology Used:  Each Team has a separate project outcome which requires different technology. Technology listed here are not the end all and I encourage you to find technologies that you are comfortable using. I ALSO encourage you to find new technologies and explore them. I am always amazed at how quickly students learn new technologies and how much they teach me about the ones I do know!

Technology that I use: Word, PowerPoint, Movie Maker (a lot!), GiMP, Scratch, Skype, Class Dojo, Edmodo

Project Overview

Driving Question:  If you (we) could initiate one change in your present life, that would shape or change the future, what would you do and how can you use history (the past) to justify/support your idea/cause(s)?

ThemeAll history is about change. We need to connect our lives to historical events in order to engage our students in understanding history, AND creating a "want to know more" environment. (*Challenge: to engage students in researching history by using it to connect to the (their) real world.

Final Project/Outcome:

The Innovationists make change in the world through coming up with new ways to do things, innovative ideas. Final Presentation will be done at The Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Students will also present at the Spring Showcase at school.

The Innovationist will work with The Museum of History and Industry (Seattle, WA) and MAKERHAUS to come up with new ideas for old tools. The project culminates with the team working at MAKERHAUS to make an actual prototype.

MAKERHAUS is a 10,000 square foot sandbox of inspirational studio / well equipped shop. MAKERHAUS is at the intersection of technology and craftsmanship, a place where you will find the latest 3D printers alongside manual milling machines. Our goal is to provide the resources, education and community for creative minds to make, invent, prototype and explore without boundaries.

Each team chooses their mode of final presentation during the Spring Showcase. The Spring Showcase is an event where students showcase their work. Families, community members, and supporting corporations’ representatives are all invited to share in this celebration of work. I typically like to hold these events during the school day so that all students get to participate but we have also had success hold these events on weekends. Our evening events are not usually well attended.

General Lesson

90 minutes

1. Students will make the connection to inventions and innovations created during the American Revolutionary War era.

2. In sub-teams of 2-3, students work on a basic redesign: The School Lunch. Students work with the directors of MAKERHAUS and The MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) to create an understanding of what makes something innovative in the context of the school lunch.

3. Using the Socratic Seminar method, students bring to their team ideas of American innovations from the 1700s. They brainstorm ideas of objects found in their own homes/lives that are not working well or need to be changed to improve lives, and/or use. Each sub-team decides what they will work on changing.

4. Teams partner with MAKERHAUS “to make, invent, prototype and explore without boundaries.”

5. Students use materials found at MAKERHAUS to craft a final prototype of their idea!

Meet one of our mentors:


Cross Curriculum Connections

Reading – Writing – Social Studies – Science – Math - Technology

Real World Connections:

Students need to feel that they matter in this world. Students need to know that they have something to say about their own lives. So many students these days do not believe that they have a chance in the world to be successful. I feel that this project empowers students to believe that they can succeed!

The change students are making is within their school and community, solving problems that they see as important. While grade levels will dictate the scope or theme, in all cases students direct the focus. Connecting what has occurred in the past to themselves, students make research relevant to their own lives. They are directly applying their learned knowledge to their own lives. Students are driven by the idea that they can "change the world". Using real world connections makes a compelling case that motivates students to critically think about their learning. Using what they know to drive positive change gives purpose and meaning to learning. Students will also be connecting with people in their own community to open up the classroom into the real world, not just relying on their teacher to lead.

This project is connected to (these other projects insert links).

Research / Reading Connection:

Motel of Mystery by David Macaulay.

Science and Technology in Colonial America by William E. Burns. 

George vs. George, The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. 

Memoir of a Revolutionary Solder: The Narrative of Joseph Plumb Martin by Joseph Plumb Martin.

Soldier’s Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Sheila Solomon Klass. 

Chains (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Writing connection:

  • Major product: Students will write 2 or more reflective letters from your ‘past’ self to your ‘future’ self, based on information collected to explain what they are learning about why people chose to change things (CCSS W.5.3a).


This project is connected to (these other projects insert links). 

Skills Development

Collaboration - Individual ResponsibilitiesStudents will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form  of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Collaboration –Team Responsibilities: Students will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form  of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Team project will be dependent of team work in order to finish.

Teams will also process through revision work where teams give supportive and critical revisions suggestions. Teams will work together so that every project is the result of team work.

Critical Thinking Skills: Students will be able to take their learned knowledge of the changes made during the Revolutionary War and apply it to their own lives, seeing that their own voice is just as powerful as the voice of the young Americans.

Problem Solving Skills: Students will be able to work together as a team to come to common solutions. Teams will assign responsibilities to each team member in order to be successful.


STEM Connections:


Science and Technology in Colonial America: What is the role and context of science in the colonial era.


Application for research (internet), Movie Maker, Web Cams, PowerPoint or Prezi, GiMP, Scratch, Edmodo.


Grade level social studies/history. Grade level science materials. Historical fiction book for group study.

Science: Science in Colonial America


The final product, building digital presentations.


The final product, use of art and creativity to argue and justify a message, cause, and/or campaign.


Math centered activities that use colonial life to connect learning in math: currency, data/charts, fractions.

21st Century Learning Skills

Learning and Innovation Skills:

• Creativity and Innovation

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

• Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media and Technology Skills:

• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy

Life and Career Skills:

• Flexibility and Adaptability

• Initiative and Self-Direction

• Productivity and Accountability

• Leadership and Responsibility

ELL and Special Education Support

Project Based Learning is very supportive of ELL and SpEd students. Allowing them to create final project based on their abilities is very rewarding, especially when working in a team.

ELL Support: Finding videos, research/support materials in a home language is quite supportive. Visual representations such as diagrams and art are also very helpful. Finding events that relate to home countries provides personal context. I find pairing ELL students with classmates speaking the same language to be supportive. Allow ELL students to use a more graphical, rather than text-based, presentation allows all students to participate fully, especially when students have great ideas but have yet to develop the language to frame ideas in English. You can also partner-pair for final presentations.

SpEd – Find the research materials for these students to use, because you want to save the cognitive challenge for the work rather than the search for research. Partner support can be a great support. Simplify elements of the final project (differentiate to meet individual needs) yet keep the same high expectations. An example of an outcome would be a PowerPoint that has 5 slides rather than 10 while still delivering the critical information. Quality not Quantity!

Educator as Change Agent / Bringing Educators & Community Into the Project

It is vital that you work to bring outside community members into students' projects. I find social media is a great way to find "specialists" to support this work. I rely on Edmodo (similar to Facebook but for school use) because it allows student to blog with experts. This way the experts are more likely to be available, as they don't have to travel to the school!

It is really amazing how much more engaged students become when they make a connection with someone, outside of the school, who is interested in their work! Also, I urge you to bring more teachers into the project work, as it is a lot easier to manage when there are more minds involved. Each of my lessons in this this project have suggestions on how to involve other teachers, community members, including corporate involvement!


Suggestions for Assessments

Formative Assessments

(During Project)


Summative Assessments

(End of Project)

  • Journal/Learning Log


  • Written Product(s), with rubrics
  • Preliminary Plans, Outlines, Prototypes


  • Oral Presentation, with rubric
  • Rough Drafts


  • Multiple Choice/Short Answer Test
  •  Quizzes/Tests/Exams


  • Essay Test
  • Notes


  • Other Product(s) or Performance(s), with rubric
  •  Checklists


  • Peer Evaluation
  •  Concept Maps


  • Self-Evaluation