Have you ever had an idea for a new invention? (If not, try to think of one now!) What is it? How does it work?
If you could invent something new to improve the televisions we use today, what would it be? How would it change the way people watch television?
Alexander Graham Bell, who made the first phone call, is a household name. Why do you think Philo Farnsworth, who sent the first television transmission, is not?
According to the article, Philo Farnsworth saw television as a way to bring people together so they could learn about their differences and make war a thing of the past. How do you think he would feel if he could see what television had become today? Why?
- As a class, brainstorm a list of television shows based on history. Analyze the list. Guide students to recognize that some of these shows are purely historical while others are historical fiction. Discuss the difference between these two approaches.
- Next, have students identify different types of television shows-cartoon, drama, comedy, reality, etc. Challenge students to identify ways that screenwriters have woven history into each type of show. Encourage them to share their favorite examples.
- As a class or in small groups, invite students to come up with their own idea for a TV show based on a specific person, place, time or event in history. Tell students that their show must be both entertaining and educational. Challenge them to write a basic plot, compile their ideal cast and identify the channel or medium (i.e., YouTube, Netflix, mainstream TV) that they think would be the best place to air their show.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn more about Philo Farnsworth and how this scarily smart teenage sharecropper invented TV.
In this Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum lesson, high school students make connections between science and design and ultimately create a mock science television show that addresses social issues.
In this National Museum of American History lesson plan, high school students utilize the life story of Celia Cruz to research the events of the Cuban revolution and its effect on U.S.-Cuban relations and U.S. foreign policy. Students will then prepare a story about the revolution as if they were members of a television news team reporting events of the time.
Invite students to view this exhibition from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which explores the era that shaped Oprah Winfrey’s life and early career in TV, her talk show that dominated daytime TV for 25 years and the ways in which she has influenced American popular culture.
In this activity from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students design surveys on teen television viewing habits and create informational materials to inspire teens to watch less television.
Using original archival research and FBI blacklist documents, a new book pieces together the intersectional narratives that never made it on air. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn all about it.
On July 16, 1969, Americans filled highways, streets and homes to witness the launch of a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center: the legendary, moon-bound Apollo 11. Watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn more about this historical event.