Illinois has long been an incubator of inventions ranging from tools so commonplace as to now be considered rudimentary to one of the most dangerously bold energy advances in human history. Some of these inventions laid groundwork for agricultural advances and engineering marvels, while the Century of Progress World’s Fair of 1933 presented bold concepts and practical applications. Celebrate the inventions of our past and dare your students to dream our future.
1837-1851, Explore the engineering successes of John Deere and Cryus MCormick as two of Illinois most dedicated inventors. Discuss how their contributions dramatically increased yields and cultivated midwest prairies into rich farmland which criss-crosses the state. Today, lllinois is a major producer of corn and soybean, dozens of agricultural commodities and even some specialty crops such as grapes and Christmas trees.
The 1893 Columbian Exposition, or World's Fair, debuted Mr. Ferris's great wheel. At 264 feet high and carrying as many as 2,000 people at a time it was sure to have been a wondrous sight to the fairgoers on Chicago's south side.
The 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair, brought to life “dream cars" and “homes of tomorrow" for thousands of visitors.
Consider inviting guest speakers to illustrate how their company incorporates aesthetics, functions and innovation into their product(s). Or, create a poster or advertisement for your design/invention of the future. Integrate the arts.
In addition to hosting the world' first nuclear reactor, lllinois is the home to two dedicated nuclear facilities, as well as the Atomic Science Bulletin. The articles “Nuclear Age Dawns" and “Hiroshima Atom Bomb Dropped by Quincy Pilot" can be juxtaposed to foster meaningful discussion.
1943, Peoria, IL
“Moldy Mary” was so nicknamed for her contribution to the discovery of the miraculous mold removed from the rind of a cantaloupe, which was potent enough to mass produce penicillin, heralding the dawn of the age of antibiotics.
Moldy Bread: Use a loaf of bread to illustrate what spurs the growth of mold and teach an important lesson in hand-washing at the same time!
Have students wear food-safe gloves to move a slice of bread from a fresh loaf of white bread to a plastic bag and then mark it “no hands”. Have students use their bare (and assumedly) dirty hands to remove a slice of bread, pass it around the classroom and then mark it “dirty hands”. Hang experiment in plain sight, make predictions, and compare results as the bread grows mold at different rates.
Ask students to identify where in the natural world we find fungus and what roles it plays in life sciences. Explore the potential good and the known harm molds cause as both hosts and toxins. What properties of fungus was the Department of Agriculture seeking as a catalyst for growing penicillin and how were samples procured and evaluated?
Consider inviting guest speakers to the classroom to explore modern careers related to how we grow and utilize fungus, as well as to explore initiatives in harnessing the power of fungus for potential problem-solving in health sciences and agriculture. Consider a Cheesemaker, a Mushroom Farmer, or a Mold Remediation Technician in addition to Mycologists, Toxicologists and Bacteriologists.
In the Land of Lincoln you’ll find this Presidential figure just around every corner. From extensive academic resources to accessible site visits, Abraham Lincoln’s physical presence in the State of Illinois presents us with dynamic opportunities to engage with the man of legend.
Did you know?
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum offers a digitized collection accessible online including hands-on activities, vocabulary, research topics, critical thinking questions, and references to additional resources. Check out
Under His Hat for materials to accommodate classroom use at various grade levels.
It’s All in a Hat: Use a Lincoln hat to collect “artifacts/objects/symbols” that represent moments in the timeline. Have students take turns identifying moments in Illinois history and add to the HAT at regular intervals or on a schedule.
Create a Lincoln Exhibition: While learning about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln have students gather/create “artifacts” or “symbols” of his Presidency and use these as the basis for curating an exhibit on Lincoln. The exhibition may include text introductions to “artifacts”, verbal presentations, and could summarize why Lincoln is one of the most memorable Presidents of all time.
Integrating the Arts: Abraham Lincoln had many nicknames before, during and after his Presidency, among them were; Honest Abe, The Great Emancipator, The Ancient One, and the The Rail-Splitter. Determine what events or characteristics attributed to these nicknames and present your findings in an artistic rendering, such as a drawing, painting, cartoon, sculpture, avatar, or video.
Power of Persuasion: After reading and examining a few of Lincoln's speeches, have students engage in the power of persuasion through various activities. Here are a few examples:
of Persuasion: After reading and examining a few of Lincoln's speeches,
have students engage in the power of persuasion through various
activities. For older students, the complexity of Lincoln's speeches and character can be more fully explored