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Teacher Resources

The "Thomas Edison and the Process of Invention" Unit is designed to be used in a sequential manner in which students will be working to answer the essential question of how inventions and scientific method impact society. Students will be focusing on the specific impact of Edison to answer these guiding questions.


  • Why did Edison choose to open his own laboratories in New Jersey? (Growth of Industry in New Jersey)
  • How did people react to his inventions? (The Inventions of Edison)
  • How did Edison expect his inventions to be used? (The Inventions of Edison)
  • What was the invention system that Edison created? (Edison on Trial)
  • Why is Edison considered a pioneer of the research and development process that exists today? (Edison on Trial)
  • How have historians shaped our perspective on Edison as an inventor? (Edison on Trial)
  • How can Edison's invention process be used today? (The "Invention Factory")


Although the lessons were designed to be implemented as a single unit, each can be used without the others. A brief description of each lesson is provided below.


Growth of Industry in New Jersey


In this section students will research how New Jersey fit the criteria of a manufacturing location as described by Alexander Hamilton. They will also analyze maps and photographs in order to discern why Edison located his first laboratory in Newark, NJ.


The Inventions of Edison


In the invention section students use documents and pictures to facilitate their conclusions about the cultural and economic changes that Edison's grand visions inspired. The activities are designed to be used independently or by the teacher using the teacher pages as a guide.


Edison on Trial


This lesson is based on a fictional trial that examines whether or not Edison is given more credit than he deserves for his inventions. During the lesson, students will learn about Edison's invention system and how it developed into an early form of the research and development industry while using primary resources to examine the role of Edison, his assistants, and his workers in the invention process. The trial is designed to allow students to find in favor of the prosecution or defense.


The Invention Process


This lesson is designed to assess the student's comprehension of the materials covered in the previous three sections. Students will work in groups to develop and produce an invention to help solve a contemporary problem. It will focus on geography, the invention process and "selling" their idea to the public.