Benjamin Franklin was twenty years old in 1727—the year Isaac Newton died. The two men never met, but both are well known in the history of science. While Franklin is best known for his experiments with electricity, he has many scientific ideas, research, and inventions to his credit. As we look at science discovery throughout history, let’s look into some of Franklin’s scientific endeavors.

GIVE IT A TRY #1: MAKE YOUR OWN WEATHER

Most people think Ben Franklin discovered electricity when he performed the experiment in which he flew a kite attached to a key in a thunderstorm. That’s not quite accurate. The idea of electricity had been discussed in scientific circles for many years. Ben Franklin did, however, have a new idea on how to prove that lightning was electricity through that experiment. Although Ben showed his hypothesis to be true through this experiment, I don’t think it would be a good one to try on our own because it is very dangerous. But did you know that Franklin also invented the lightning rod to protect buildings from lightning? Did you know that he was interested in how the weather behaved? He was recorded as chasing storms on a horse to learn more about them. In our first “Give It a Try,” we will learn about weather.

Items Needed:

  • Medium saucepan
  • Water
  • Tin pie pan
  • Ice cubes
  • Tongs
  • A stove
  • Adult supervision

Directions:

First, make sure one of your parents is available to supervise. Fill the saucepan about half-full of water and bring the water to a boil on the stove. In the meantime, place at least eight to ten ice cubes in your pie pan. Once the water is boiling, carefully hold the pie pan with the set of tongs about four to six inches over the saucepan. Now, watch carefully in the space between the two pans. Write down your observations and why you believe this happened.

If you watched carefully, you should have seen a small cloud form at the bottom of the pie pan. This occurred because the steam and heat from the boiling water encountered the cold of the pie pan. In the same way, when a warm-weather front comes into contact with a cold-weather front, the moisture in the air can create clouds that may turn into storm fronts.

GIVE IT A TRY #2: MUSICAL GLASSES

Franklin also invented a musical instrument, the armonica (no, that’s not a typo; the armonica is totally separate from the more well-known and similarly named harmonica). He came up with the idea after seeing someone play a tune using glasses with different amounts of water in them. Although many people have never heard of Franklin’s musical invention, Mozart and Beethoven wrote music for the instrument.

Items Needed:

  • 4–6 drinking glasses (they can be varying sizes and shapes, but must be made of glass)
  • Water
  • Plastic spoon
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions:

First, gather your drinking glasses together. Next, put water into the drinking glasses. How much water really depends on you; however, if your glasses are the same size, make sure each one has a different amount of water. If you like, make the water in the glasses different colors with the food coloring (my children always thought it was fun to do this). Lastly, gently tap each glass with the plastic spoon. Listen to the different tones produced. To hear more tones, you can change the amount of water in each glass. Ben Franklin’s instrument was made with glass spheres that he played with moist fingertips. The sound is said to have been similar to some of the tones that you have created with your glasses and spoon.

GIVE IT A TRY #3: INVENT!

We have already stated that Franklin invented the lightning rod and the armonica, but did you know that he had many other inventions? Several of Ben’s inventions were created to help people. He invented a way to pick up things that were dropped, called an extension arm. He created a pair of glasses that would help a person who had trouble seeing both far away and close up. He also created a new type of woodstove that was more efficient. His mind seemed to be full of new ideas.

Items Needed:

  • Clothespins
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Rulers
  • String
  • Note cards
  • Pencils
  • Other miscellany

Directions:

First, gather all of the supplies. Anything small that might be used in an invention is great. Next, think . . . think . . . think. Try to think of something you could make with your supplies that could help out in some way. If you think of an idea, write and/or draw it on a note card. Then, try to build it. It may take a couple of tries to get your invention the way you want it. I’m sure that not all of Ben Franklin’s ideas worked perfectly the first time.

God gave Ben Franklin an amazing ability to observe the world around him and then come up with ideas for how to help others. Has He given you some of that same ability? Remember that God created everything that we—and Ben Franklin—observe. As we continue to look at science,  remember that we are merely “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” (Kepler). 

Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi, and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for more than ten years. The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.

Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi, and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for more than ten years. The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.

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