Lighthouses, built to help ships navigate to shore, are fascinating to children because of their long associations with shipwrecks and sailors. A study of lighthouses lends itself to classroom projects in science, geography, history, math and English. From making models to writing stories, lighthouses can inspire students to think scientifically and creatively.
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Science projects include making a model of a lighthouse. This involves designing a simple electrical circuit to build a working light. Students use bulbs and batteries to produce an electric light. Another project idea is to learn how beams work, including research on the design of Fresnel lenses and how light is projected over long distances.
The teacher gives each student, or group, a specific geographical area to research. The students go online or read books to discover the most important lighthouses in the region. Students then use world maps to plot the major lighthouses of each region. Using the Internet, students can download pictures and place them on the map with a little text background on each one. A geographical project for younger children is making maps of coastlines, including lighthouses, and learning about the features of coastal towns.
Students research an aspect of lighthouse history in groups to present to the entire class. For instance, one group could explore early lighthouses and what they can tell us about each civilisation. Another group could look into the lives of lighthouse keepers, including the dangers of the job. Use this project as an opportunity for the students to practice their reference and research skills. Encourage research online, in encyclopedias and other specialist books. Each group should display its written and art work as a large poster for display on the classroom walls.
A project for younger children centres on the book "The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch." In the book, the lighthouse keeper's wife, Mrs Grinling, sends her husband his lunch by cable every day but the seagulls keep taking the food. Assign the children to groups and them to come up with different solutions to the problem. The students can write and draw their own lighthouse stories. Alternatively, the children can write stories in groups and work on a book for the class.
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