Ingenious: Franklin Assembles a Scientific Community

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Few Americans have heard of the burgeoning scientific community known as the America Philosophical society, started by none other than Benjamin Franklin. With inquiry, research, and discussion, high schoolers come to understand their community in the context of the greater Western scientific community of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

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Instructional Ideas

  • Build on pupils’ prior knowledge of scientific communities by inviting them to recall what they know about communities of thinkers in Athens, Babylon, Alexandria, Sassanian Persia, and the Roman Empire 
  • Extend the activity by asking scholars to consider the long-term effects of the activity of eighteenth-century scientists
Classroom Considerations

  • Differentiate instruction by having students write a journal article using contemporary language instead of an 18th-century piece
  • Work with an English instructor to provide samples of 18th-century writing for the class to use as models in their writing. Discuss the hallmarks of scientific writing of that time
  • This resource is only available on an unencrypted HTTP website. It should be fine for general use, but don’t use it to share any personally identifiable information

  • Lesson offers a chance for adaptation to class focus or learner interests in the writing assignment
  • Activity offers an opportunity for cross-curricular investigation involving social studies, science, and English
  • Resource supports Franklin’s self-description with a detailed timeline

  • Includes broken web links, but most readings can be easily found online