Industrial Revolution

We recently finished our block on the Industrial Revolution. This was such an interesting block in the time period, and innovations had a diversity of impacts on so many people – some good and some bad. I used The Industrial Revolution for Kids as a spine of sorts, reading from it on a regular basis. It had a well-rounded overview of the time period, but was mostly focused on the United State.

Our Read Aloud books were Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Gift about the Potato Famine of 1845-52 and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens which served as our literature from that time period. I was not sure in the beginning how Nory Ryan’s Song was going to fit into the block, but it turns out that many of the books focused on the construction the Transcontinental Railroad, and the Irish Immigrants were major contributors to the building of the railroad. During the same time, China was experiencing a similar event with the Taiping Rebellion, and the influx of Chinese immigrants built the other side of the railway.

Going over the material during planning, I decided to section the Revolution into 4 categories:

  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Working Environments
  • Inventions

For transportation we went over the steam engine, and how that enabled both the steam boats and the locomotive. We touched on the production of the automobile at the end of the century. Most of our time was spent on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. I was surprised at the impact that it had on so many people. I was aware of some of the impacts on the Plains Native American Nations to some degree, but did not realize that the western expansion, which was largely due to the railroad, was responsible for the destruction of the bison, and thus essentially destroying their way of life. I also was not aware of the immense role that Chinese and Irish immigrants, as well as enslaved African Americans, played in the railroad’s construction or the racism, danger, and mistreatment they endured. I have a much greater respect for all three now.

Communication focused on the Pony Express, Morse Code, and the telephone. We spent a lot of time here talking about what it was like before the Industrial Revolution and after. Reading about the Pony Express was fun, and playing with Morse Code was also a highlight of the block. We spent time more than one day sending each other coded messages.

Working Environments were detailed in our spine, The Industrial Revolution for Kids. Some of it was rather gruesome and details, and we skipped over it. We also read The Bobbin Girl during this section. For inventions we read about Thomas Edison, Louis Latimer, and Michael Faraday.

We did two art projects for this block, both from Waldofish’s Diving Deeper program. One was a landscape, pastel drawing of the theme. This one was particularly visceral in that you can see the change over the drawing parallel the change in the century. The other was an adaptation of their wax resist, perspective train drawing.

We also did several projects including using Morse code to send each other messages, draw a timeline on the wall and in her Main Lesson book, and attempt to make a telegraph. There were two exercises from The Industrial Revolution for Kids that I thought did well at giving a deeper understanding between then and now. The first was an inflation of the dollar. They had a short graph that I copied into her notebook, and we searched what items would cost today compared to what the items had cost in 1890. It was pretty interesting to see the differences between the items. The second exercise was to map the trade origin of various ‘products’ around the house. We started with a map of trade before the Industrial revolution, and then compared it to what we mapped.

Below are the books and resources that we used:


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International Morse Code

Making a Telegraph We used a kit, but the idea was basically the same. We created an electromagnet that would pull the (paperclip for us) down when the circuit was closed when we tapped our message causing a clicking sound, and in the case of the video, a pen writing.

Pastel Lesson from Waldofish

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Courtney L says:

    What a great unit! I especially love the idea of the trade routes for items then and now. Brilliant!

    1. Thanks, Courtney. That was an adaptation from the book The Industrial Revolution for Kids.

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