Educational Trips: American Inventors

Part of the American Dream is the hope and indomitable ability to achieve goals and dreams, with only hard work and a little help by your side. This freedom has given way to incredible leaps in technology, medicine, and more from the following people. The polio vaccine, bifocals, and even the modern light bulb were created with inspiration, a little ingenuity, and a lot of practice. If there's anything to be learned from these men, it's that you should never give up. Take your students on a field trip to one of these destinations and learn about the perseverance that shaped the modern world.

Thomas Edison National Historical Park - West Orange, NJ - Inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison was credited with many inventions we still use today. The incandescent light bulb is his most famous but he's also the father of the quadruplex telegraph, phonograph, mimeograph, and even the movie camera. Including both his residence and laboratory, Thomas Edison National Historical Park effectively showcases the inventor's tireless efforts and dedication to his work. At the Laboratory Complex, your group can watch a silent movie with Edison's the camera, visit the Chemistry Lab, and explore all three floors of inventions and equipment before heading over to Glenmont, Edison's incredible estate home.

Ben Franklin Museum - Philadelphia, PA - Of course, everyone knows about our founding father Mr. Benjamin Franklin. He was an avid inventor, an academic and politician, as well as a prolific writer and satirist. Ben Franklin has been credited with a myriad of inventions, but among the most fascinating are the lightning rod, bifocals, the glass harmonica, and the Franklin stove. He did not, as is commonly misunderstood, discover electricity but studied it and even coined several of the terms we still use today, including battery, charge, and conductor. At the Ben Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, your student group can be ushered around the exhibits by a costumed Ben Franklin guide, learn all about his life in American and his time in England, his role in the American Revolution, and why exactly he was called America's favorite Renaissance Man.

George Washington Carver National Monument - Diamond, MO - The preserved childhood home of George Washington Carver, this Missouri National Monument explores Carver's early life and the origins which inspired the scientist's later works. Carver, born into slavery in southern Missouri in the early 1860s, was educated by his German immigrant master Moses Carver, and eventually went on to college to get a degree in agricultural studies. Using this knowledge, Carver discovered more than 300 uses for peanuts, as well as more than a hundred different uses for sweet potatoes and pecans. Peanuts, which was a flourishing crop and at a surplus, had few practical uses before Carver. After his attention, they were used as medicines, in cosmetics, food, drinks, household products, dyes and paints, and in general uses such as insecticide and gasoline.

Henry Ford Museum - Dearborn, MI - Inventor of the moving assembly line, Henry Ford, like many American inventors, revolutionized the way things are made even today. He did not, as many believe, invent the automobile. Instead, he created the Ford Model T and refashioned personal transportation for the entire country. His self-named museum in his hometown of Dearborn exhibits everything from manufacturing practices to the Dymaxion House, the house of the future, and also Ford's extensive collection of beautiful violins. Temporary and permanent exhibits cover Ford's entire life, his position in American politics and pop culture, his inventions and business work, and much more!

Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop - New Haven, CT - Most notably, the inventor of the cotton gin, Eli Whitney revolutionized the cotton industry in the antebellum South. Whitney, seeking to be more efficient, also pushed a method of "interchangeable parts" and milling machines to speed up production. The Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop was built on the site of Whitney's first American factory, established in 1798, and works to educate visitors on invention and design. There are exhibitions on a number of inventors including Leonardo DaVinci, A.C. Gilbert, and others alongside Mr. Whitney's own inventions and interesting history.

Orville and Wilbur Wright - National Air and Space Museum - Washington, D.C. - Your students, however young, have probably heard of the Wright brothers and their amazing invention. Here's your chance to explore their history up close and personal, learning about their 1903 success with the first Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. At the National Air and Space Museum, you'll be able to see for yourself the original Wright Flyer in full glory alongside many of its descendants like the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh's record-breaking plane.

Jonas Salk - California Museum - Sacramento, CA - Dr. Jonas Salk was born in New York City with a dream of helping people through medicine. His incredible intelligence rocketed him into college at the young age of 15 where he earned his M.D. and was, by 1947, appointed the director of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He tirelessly worked to create a vaccine for polio, which was still ravaging the country, and in 1955, he was successful. His work lowered the polio count from over 45,000 to 910 in just a few short years, and today it's lowered even further. Salk was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007, for his research institute in San Diego. Several pieces of his original lab equipment, including samples from the 1954 polio vaccine, are included in his exhibit.