Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

African American Inventors Study
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


The lesson's purpose is to research various African American inventors who have had a positive influence on society by contributing to the common good.


Two Fifty-Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • research an African American inventor.
  • reflect on the invention's impact on self and society.


  • A light bulb
  • On-line computers (preferably one computer per two students)
  • Inventors List (Attachment One)
  • Student Worksheets entitled African American Inventor Study (Attachment Two) enough for each pair of students
  • Assessment Rubric (Attachment Three)
  • Miscellaneous resource materials such as encyclopedias, Who's Who in America, biographies,etc.
Handout 1
African American Inventors List
Handout 2
African American Inventor Study
Handout 3
Assessment Rubric

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set: 

Hold up a light bulb and ask the students how this invention benefits those who use it. Ask them to verbally share other inventions that benefit those who use them. Have the students to reflect on this statement, "Inventions are usually intended to benefit the "common good." (The "common good" involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community- www.learningtogive.org ).Ask the students who invented the light bulb. Thomas Edison probably would be the obvious answer but explain to your students that Lewis Howard Latimer, an African American, the only African American member of Edison's research team,  developed and patented the process for manufacturing the carbon filaments used in the light bulb. This made the light bulb economically feasible. Go on to explain that between the mid 1800's and early 1900's, over a thousand inventions were patented by African American inventors. Many more were unidentified because they hid their race to avoid discrimination, while others sold their inventions to white men.

 (NOTE: Prior to the lesson, the teacher may choose to bookmark the African American inventor websites for the students as doing so will save valuable instructional time.)

  • Ask students to reflect back to what they learned about Vivian Thomas and ask how he had to hide his contribution to the Blue Baby surgical procedure.
  • Explain to students that they are going to have an opportunity to learn about many unknown and unheralded African American inventors who have impacted their lives and society for the common good.
  • Assign an African American inventor from the Inventors List (Attachment One) to each pair of students to research . One student will be given the job to conduct the research and the other the recorder/illustrator.
  • Give each group a copy of the African American Inventor Study Worksheet (Attachment Two) to fill out. On the worksheet will be listed the various web-sites students can use for their research. Also have available a hard copy research materials ( books, encyclopedias, etc.).
  • Assign the completion of the research and the worksheet.


Students are to write a compare-and-contrast paragraph on Vivian Thomas' experience (Lesson One) and the experience of their assigned inventor using the Assessment Rubric (Attachment Three) as their guide.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

The video "From Dreams to Reality: A Tribute to Minority Inventors" can be shown as an extension of this lesson. (See Biographical References below)

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Denise Young
Forest Hills Public Schools
Eastern Middle/High School
Ada, MI 49301


Handout 1Print Handout 1

African American Inventors List

Granville T. Woods

Norbert Rillieux

Lewis H. Latimer

Elijah McCoy

Garrett A. Morgan

Frederick M. Jones

Meredity Gourdine

Otis Boykin

Vance H. Marchbanks, Jr.

John B. Christian

George R. Carruthers

Charles R. Drew

Andrew Beard

Henry Brown

M.A. Cherry

W.B. Purris

Garrett Morgan

Benjamin Bannaker

Handout 2Print Handout 2

African American Inventor Study

Name:__________________                                        Hour:_________



1. I have been assigned the following inventor:______________________

2. Use the following web-sites to help you locate information on the inventor and his/her famous inventions(s).








**You can also do a Google search if necessary for additional information.

3. My inventor created the following item(s): (Describe if necessary)

4. Use the space below to sketch/draw one or more of the inventions.


5. In complete sentences, share any background information you feel is important to your inventor.

6. How would your life be different without the invention(s) created by the person you researched?


Handout 3Print Handout 3

Assessment Rubric




4 Points

3 Points

2 Points

1 Point

Strong main idea/topic sentence is clear, concise, and identified inventor/inventions

Adequate main idea/topic sentence identifies inventor/invention.

Main idea/topic sentence is unclear and doesn't address inventor/inventions

Main idea/topic sentence is not evident.


Well developed essay with a clear and logical format.

Generally well organized with a clear and logical format.

Some evidence of planning and organization.

Lacks little planning and organization.


Includes 3 or more well developed examples /details for each similarity or difference

Includes at least 2 examples or reasons/details for each similarity or difference.

Includes at least 1 example or reason/detail but some information may be incorrect.

Provides little support for each similarity or difference.


States a logical conclusion based on similarities or differences.

States a conclusion based on similarities or differences.

Conclusion is evident but does not draw on any similarities or differences.

No evidence of any conclusion.


Contains few spelling or grammatical errors.

Contains several errors in spelling/grammar that do not interfere with meaning.

Contains many errors in spelling/grammar that interferes with meaning.

Contains many errors in spelling/grammar that make the piece illegible.


Philanthropy Framework:


Cass, Other Tacoma, WA11/7/2010 1:06:05 AM

I enjoyed your lesson plan, thank you.

Sunshine, Teacher Jamaica, NY2/8/2013 5:09:36 PM

Thank you! I am a science teacher, and I am going to relate this to my science lessons.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Courage of the Heart Summary


Miracles of the Heart
African American Inventors Study
Questions of Courage

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