Society's Influence

Nature of Science & Engineering
The Practice of Engineering

The needs of any society influence the technologies that are developed and how they are used.

Benchmark: Invention to New Inventions

Describe a situation in which one invention led to other inventions.


Standard in Lay Terms 

The technologies that are made and used are based on the needs of the people at a given time.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

Many social practices and products of technology are shaped by scientific knowledge. Source: Project 2061, Science and Society, Grades 3-5, p. 9. See this page.

Understandings about science and technology:

  • Science and technology are reciprocal.  Science helps drive technology, as it addresses questions that demand more sophisticated instruments and provides principles for better instrumentation and technique.  Technology is essential to science, because it provides instruments and techniques that enable observations of objects and phenomena that are otherwise unobservable due to factors such as quantity, distance, location, size, and speed.  Technology also provides tools for investigations, inquiry, and analysis.
  • Perfectly designed solutions do not exist.  All technological solutions have trade-offs, such as safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance.  Engineers often build-in back-up systems to provide safety.  Risk is part of living in a highly technological world. Reducing risk often results in new technology.
  • Technological designs have constraints.  Some constraints are unavoidable, for example, properties of materials, or effects of weather and friction; other constraints limit choices in the design, for example, environmental protection, human safety, and aesthetics.


Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks:  Describe a situation in which one invention led to other inventions.


"An amazing invention - but who would ever want to use one?"

Quote by Rutherford B. Hayes, made during a call from Washington DC to Pennsylvania using Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, patented on March 7, 1879.



NSES Standards

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY STANDARDS - Levels K-4: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.  Understanding about scientific inquiry.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY - Levels K-4: Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans.  Abilities of technological design.  Understanding about science and technology.


AAAS Atlas

  • Political and Economic Systems, Grades 3-5: The value of something depends on how much of it is available and how many people want it. 7E/E6**  Source
  • Public Perception of Science, Grades 3-5: There is no perfect design.  Designs that are best in one respect (safety or ease of use, for example) may be inferior in other ways (cost or appearance).  Usually some features must be sacrificed to get others. 3B/E1  Source
  • Design Constraints, Grades 3-5: Factors such as cost, safety, appearance, environmental impact, and what will happen if the solution fails must be considered in technological design. 3C/4
  • Interaction of Technology and Society, Grades 3-5: Transportation, communications, nutrition, sanitation, health care, entertainment, and other technologies give large numbers of people today the goods and services that were once luxuries enjoyed only by the wealthy. 3C/3
  • Decisions About Using Technology, Grades 3-5: Technologies often have drawbacks as well as benefits.  A technology that helps some people or organisms may hurt others. 3C/5  Source
  • Agricultural Technology, Grades 3-5: Modern technology has increased the efficiency of agriculture so that fewer people are needed to work on farms than ever before. 8A/4
  • Communication Technology, Grades 3-5: People have invented devices, such as paper and ink, engraved plastic disks, and magnetic tapes, for recording information.  These devices enable great amounts of information to be stored and retrieved - and be sent to other people or places. 8D/3  Source

Benchmarks of Science Literacy - Designed World:


By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that:

  • People have invented devices such as paper and ink, engraved plastic disks, and magnetic tapes for recording information.  These devices enable great amounts of information to be stored, retrieved, and sent to other people or places. 8D/E3

Health Technology:

Students can collect information on their own health with simple devices, such as a watch, a thermometer, and a stethoscope, and they can begin to get a sense of how such information varies.  Students can even undertake projects such as designing aids for the disabled.  If children visit a hospital, they can see examples of how computers and monitoring instruments are important in various aspects of health care.

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that:                                      

  • Technology has made it possible to repair and replace some body parts. 8F/E2* Source

Common Core Standards

Language Arts:

Informational Text: 3. Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Writing: 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

a. Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.

c. Link ideas within categories of information using words and phrases (e.g., another, for example, also, because).

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation    presented.


Student Misconceptions 

Some students of all ages believe science mainly invents things or solves practical problems rather than exploring and understanding the world.  Source: Project 2061, Research in Benchmarks - The Nature of Science: Science and Society (1C), p. 8. See this page.


As students entered Mr. Tech's 4th grade classroom on a Monday morning, they were asked to write on the morning meeting message board technologies (or inventions) that were important in their lives.  After the school bell rang, students quickly moved to their morning meeting spots on the classroom rug.  During sharing time, students talked about their important technologies.  As the students shared, Mr Tech recorded the important technologies in a list.  Mr. Tech asked his students, "Imagine life without one of the great technologies we have talked about.  Who would suffer most?  Would anyone benefit?  Can something else take its place?"  Students returned to their tables and took out their science notebooks.  Mr. Tech explained that during Monday's writing block, each student needed to choose a technology (or invention) from the class list and write a diary entry of a typical family on a day without the technology.  As students worked, Mr. Tech met individually with students to brainstorm the ways their technology might impact a family's daily life.  At the end of  writing block, students formed a Writer's Circle back on the classroom rug.  Mr. Tech asked his students to pair-share with a classmate next to them in the circle about their diary entries and their ideas on how their technology might have been developed.  Later in the week, Mr. Tech will ask the students to research and make a timeline of technologies (or inventions) that led to their present technology they selected.

Adapted by: Kindem, 2011.  Activity Source: Egan, L. H. (1997). Inventors and inventions. New York: Scholastic Professional Books. 


Instructional Notes 

Instructional suggestions:

Just as inquiry and experimentation guide investigations in science, the Engineering        Design Process guides solutions to technology/engineering design challenges. Learning  technology/engineering content and skills is greatly enhanced by a hands-on, active        approach that allows students to engage in design challenges and safely work with          materials to model and test solutions to a problem. Using the steps of the Engineering     Design Process, students can solve technology/engineering problems and apply scientific concepts across a wide variety of topics to develop conceptual understanding.  


Selected activities

I Spy an Invention: Students look around the classroom for inventions (almost any human-made object).  As an added challenge, tell them that their goal is to find and write down inventions that aren't on anyone else's list.  After a few minutes, compare and discuss the items.  Are any of the items not inventions?  Why?  In what way is each invention an improvement?

Source: Egan, L. H. (1997). Inventors and inventions. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Science and technology have the power to change our lives. Start a discussion about inventions and how they might affect us.

Adapted from this page.

Some inventions aren't really new. They're improvements on products already on the market. Have students come up with plans to improve one or more of these common products: pencils, markers, sneakers and cars. Students should explain their plans in writing and illustrations.  Adapted from this page.

Download copies of Compare the Cars from Times For Kid.  After reading the text, students complete a Venn Diagram on how the cars are the same and how they are different. Ask students to discuss how the car invention has led to other inventions. Source

A Better Mouse Trap - To plan and design new products.

Collect an assortment of items.  Have students try to think of a way to improve each product so that its function better meets their needs.


Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links:

Inventor of the Week: Background information on inventors. See this page.  

Innovative Lives: Background information on inventors. See this page

Exploring Leonardo: Content and interactive activities are included on Leonardo's life, perspective, and invention

Invent Now: Links to invention challenges

New Vocabulary 


Invention: a new product, system, or process that has never existed before, created by study and experimentation.  Source

Need: a condition or situation in which something is required or wanted.  Source

Society: an extended social group having a distinctive cultural and economic organization.  Source

Technology: almost anything created to solve a problem or meet a need.

Technology Connections 

Learn From the Past, Create the Future -  A PDF booklet that can be printed and distributed to any young inventor looking for more information about inventions, patents, and the invention process.


The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Online exhibits, games, resources and information about invention and innovation.


Inventing Modern America - Explore the world of inventors and inventions with some interesting games.


Museum of Ancient Inventions - a virtual museum of ancient inventions.


America on the Move - Discover how transportation has changed the way people live, work, and play over the last 125 years. 


Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century - a list of the top 20 achievements andhow engineering shaped a century and changed the world.


See this page.

Cross Curricular Connections 

Writing: Describe a day in your life 20 years from now. Include at least three futuristic inventions.


Math: Choose 8 inventions to introduce to the class. Of the eight inventions, what are your students' favorites? Have them survey classmates and then graph and interpret the results.


Art: Advertising is one way for inventors to spread the word about their products. Have students design print advertisements or create television commercials to tell others about one invention.


Art: Class groups are assigned to different rooms of a house/apartment.  They go home and research the everyday inventions that are found there. Then the class creates a "mural" of a house, filling each room with facts and pictures about common inventions.



Assessment of Students

1. One invention can lead to another. How can you complete this statement?                 The invention of ____________ led to the invention of ______________.  (Level - 2)

Source: Egan, L. H. (1997). Inventors and inventions. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

2. Why do people come up with new inventions? (Level - 2)

3.  Will there always be new inventions, or will people eventually run out of ideas? Explain.  (Level - 2)


4.  What is an invention? (Level -1)


5. Inventing is a process. T or F (Level - 1)

6.  Does every invention have to have an inventor? (Level -3)

Assessment of Teachers

1. Does every invention have to have an inventor? (Level -3)

2. Why do people come up with new inventions? (Level - 2)

3. One invention can lead to another. How can you complete this statement?                 The invention of ____________ led to the invention of ______________.  (Level - 2)

Source: Egan, L. H. (1997). Inventors and inventions. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.


Struggling Learners 

Additional exposure or pre-exposure to activities can be helpful.  Build cooperative learning groups carefully. Students must be grouped with students who will allow them to participate and use their strengths.  Adapted from this page.

English Language Learners 

Graphic Organizers - Graphic organizers are a means of introducing and assessing concepts in a manner that encourages meaningful learning. They require minimal language and are therefore helpful tools when teaching science to English language learners. Source

Extending the Learning 

Inventions can be made of many smaller inventions.  Have students identify, investigate, and make a drawing that shows the many small inventions inside a big invention of their choice.  They can use "how it works" references to label the parts.

Source: Egan, L. H. (1997). Inventors and inventions. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.


Introduce technologies and inventions from around the world.  Idea Finder has links to some of the most interesting stories and fascinating facts about inventions and innovations from around the world. Each invention sheds some light on the good intentions of the inventor and their quest to improve the quality of life.


Special Education 

Build laboratory and cooperative learning groups carefully. Students with disabilities must be grouped with students who will allow them to participate and use their strengths, but who are also willing to cooperate with their areas of difficulty.

Split up large chunks of instruction, particularly experimental procedures, into small parts. Have students repeat directions in their own words.

Integrate hands-on instruction with traditional methods. Switching to a different instructional modality can re-focus wandering attention.



Classroom Observation 


Students should be encouraged to be creative and active in the process of creating, exploring, comparing, and inventing.  There should be a climate of acceptance of ideas. Students must feel comfortable asking questions and expressing opinions in the science classroom.  Adapted from: http://teachingtoday.glencoe.com/howtoarticles/supporting-special-education-students-in-science



Invention at Play - an invention playhouse that gives children an opportunity for  mechanical tinkering, fiddling with construction toys, reflecting about nature, and drawing or engaging in visual modeling. Source

Invention at Play Family Guide - Inventor stories and activities for adults to do with children under 10. Source