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The Age of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution

Lesson Plans by John Gillis

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The Age of Enlightenment Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Enlightenment/Scientific Revolution Include:

The era between the 16th and the 18th centuries was tumultuous. Revolutions in thought provoked revolutions in action. The spread of new ideas became known as the Enlightenment. Systems of government that had existed for centuries in Europe came under increasing scrutiny. Eventually, the Enlightenment sparked revolutions on both sides of the Atlantic.


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The Enlightenment/Scientific Revolution Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Philosophes Character Map

Enlightenment Scientific Revolution - Enlightenment Thinkers
Enlightenment Scientific Revolution - Enlightenment Thinkers

Example

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The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution were driven by people who dared to think outside of the box and challenge what they had been taught.

Create a storyboard character map of the main thinkers of the Enlightenment.

The chart must include the following Enlightenment thinkers:

  • Voltaire
  • Baron de Montesquieu
  • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Bonesana Beccaria
  • Denis Diderot

Each cell must detail the thinker's background, beliefs/ideas, and the long-term impact of those ideas.


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John Lockes vs. Thomas Hobbes | Political Views Comparison

Enlightenment Scientific Revolution - Locke vs. Hobbes
Enlightenment Scientific Revolution - Locke vs. Hobbes

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Many of the revolutionary political ideas of the Enlightenment developed out of a basic disagreement on how people should be governed. This disagreement is best illustrated by the divergent views of British political thinkers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.

In this activity, students will analyze the differences between the political views of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Students should address the following questions in their storyboard:

  1. What are natural rights?
  2. What is the social contract?
  3. What is the preferred government of Locke and of Hobbes? How is the government based on each thinker’s view of human nature?

Locke

Locke’s Natural Rights

According to Locke, people are reasonable. They are born with the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. Governments must protect those rights...or be overthrown.


The best kind of government is democracy.

Government by popular consent was the motivation for the Atlantic Revolutions and the foundation of modern democracies.



Hobbes

Hobbes’ Leviathan

According to Hobbes, people are not reasonable. They are born with selfish, nasty inclinations. Governments exist to keep human beings from killing each other.


The best kind of government is absolute monarchy.

Hobbes' view that the only way to maintain order was through absolute rule also persists. Many 21st century authoritarian governments justify their action with Hobbesian arguments.




Extended Activity

Students could extend this activity by finding modern examples of governments that reflect either a Lockean approach or a Hobbesian approach to ruling. These examples could be displayed in an additional two cells at the bottom of this storyboard.


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Before and After: Scientific Revolution Changed Views

Change of Views - Scientific Revolution
Change of Views - Scientific Revolution

Example

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The Scientific Revolution offered society a number of alternative theories to some big questions. These theories of the tackled questions ranging from, ”How does the universe work?” and “What is the essential material that all things are made of?” to “How does the human body function?”

Students will organize the concepts of the Scientific Revolution into three categories on the grid layout: Universe, Body, and Material World. The storyboard should answer these questions:

  1. What new theories were developed regarding the functioning of the human body?
  2. What new theories were developed regarding man’s place in the universe?
  3. What new theories were developed regarding the functioning of the natural world?

Universe

Galileo
In his book, Starry Messenger, Galileo Galilei write about his observations using a telescope. He claimed that Jupiter had four moons and confirmed Copernicus’ theory of a heliocentric universe.

Newton
Isaac Newton theorized that the universe worked because of a power called gravity. This force affected everything in the universe and maintained order.

Natural World

Toricelli
Evangelista Toricelli created the first barometer. He used it to show that changes in atmospheric pressure could predict weather.

Janssen and
Leeuwenhoek
Dutch eyeglass maker Zacharias Janssen invented the telescope. Anton von Leeuwenhoek used the invention to see cells and bacteria.

Human Body

Vesalius
Flemish doctor Andreas Vesalius dissected corpses and discovered a far more sophisticated human physiology that previously believed.

Jenner
British doctor, Edward Jenner, created the world’s first vaccine. He gave people small amounts of cowpox, which gave them immunity to smallpox.


Extended Activity

Students could choose which innovation they feel had the biggest long-term impact. They could then defend this choice using a smaller storyboard that illustrated the long-term impact.


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Enlightenment Changed Thinking: Comparison Activity

How did the Scientific Revolution inspire the Enlightenment?
How did the Scientific Revolution inspire the Enlightenment?

Example

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The link between the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment is important to understand. It is clear evidence that a way or method of thinking can have an impact on a wide variety of social issues. In this case, embracing logic and reason in science inspired a whole new way to look at government. Have students create a T-Chart storyboard that gives example of how old ways of thinking about science were transformed by reason and logic. The storyboard must have:

  • Two columns: One labeled “Old Thinking” the other labeled “New Thinking”
  • Three examples of old Scientific approaches that changed during the Scientific Revolution
  • A fourth example that shows how applied logic and reasoning transformed government


Extended Activity

Students could create additional examples of political changes that happened as a result of reason. Students should also address the following question: "Why was the application of reason and logic to scientific problems easier than applying the same concepts to political and social problems?”


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Reactions to the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution

Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment: Reactions
Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment: Reactions

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Both the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution provoked strong reactions from citizens and institutions. It is essential to understand the scope of these reactions, as they are clear evidence of just how powerful and revolutionary these new political and scientific ideas were.

Have students create a T-Chart storyboard that explains the reactions that individual and institutions had to the Enlightenment and new scientific thought. The storyboard should explain the ideas in one column and the reactions in the second column. Here are some examples to consider:

  • Galileo’s interaction with the Church
  • Rousseau’s ideas on Religion
  • Voltaire and the Enlightened Despots

Scientific Revolution Reactions

Innovation Reaction

Galileo Galilei

Galileo spent years perfecting his telescopes and making detailed observations of heavenly bodies and their movements.

Trouble with the Church

Church leaders were alarmed at Galileo's findings, because they contradicted what the church taught. Galileo was summoned before the Pope in 1633 and forced to claim that his conclusions were false.

Voltaire

The influence of Voltaire and other Enlightenment philosophies was widespread.

The Enlightened Despots

The philosophes influenced a group of "Enlightened Despots". They were absolute monarchs who were interested in using Enlightenment thinking in their policies.

Rousseau

Rousseau argued that all religions were aimed at the same goal: creating virtuous people. Therefore they have equal value.

Trouble with the Church

This opinion got Rousseau in hot water with religious leaders in Paris. His books were burned, and he fled Paris to avoid arrest.



Extended Activity

An easy extension of this activity would be to ask students, “What recent political, social, or scientific ideas have provoked strong reactions in the past ten years?” This could be a prompt for a discussion, a written assignment, or another storyboard!


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Science evolved dramatically during this time period. Old scientific ideas of the Greeks and Romans were replaced with new concepts based on an empirical approach. The reason and logic of the scientific revolution was adopted by a number of enlightenment thinkers or "Philosophes". Innovative ideas impacted politics, science, and social issues of this era.

Students will analyze both the long and short-term ramifications of these “revolutionary” ideas. Students can demonstrate an in-depth understanding of both the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. Students understand the links between history and our world today.


Essential Questions for The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution

  1. What were the causes of the Scientific Revolution? How did the Scientific Revolution inspire the Enlightenment?
  2. How did society respond to the ideas of the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution?
  3. What was the fundamental disagreement between John Locke and Thomas Hobbes?
  4. What were the social and political changes caused by the Enlightenment?
  5. How did the Scientific Revolution change people’s ideas about the material world, the universe, and human anatomy?
  6. What specific ideas did Voltaire, Rousseau, Beccaria, Wollstonecraft, Diderot, and Montesquieu develop during the Enlightenment?


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•   (English) The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution   •   (Español) La Ilustración y Revolución Científica   •   (Français) Les Lumières et la Révolution Scientifique   •   (Deutsch) Die Aufklärung und die Wissenschaftliche Revolution   •   (Italiana) L'Illuminismo e la Rivoluzione Scientifica   •   (Nederlands) De Verlichting en de Wetenschappelijke Revolutie   •   (Português) O Iluminismo ea Revolução Científica   •   (עברית) ההשכלה המדעית המהפכה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) ثورة التنوير والعلم   •   (हिन्दी) प्रबुद्धता और वैज्ञानिक क्रांति   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Просвещение и Научная Революция   •   (Dansk) Oplysningstiden og Videnskabelige Revolution   •   (Svenska) Upplysningen och Vetenskapliga Revolutionen   •   (Suomi) Valistuksen ja Tieteellinen Vallankumous   •   (Norsk) Opplysningstiden og Vitenskapelige Revolusjonen   •   (Türkçe) Aydınlanma ve Bilim Devrimi   •   (Polski) Oświecenie i Rewolucja Naukowa   •   (Româna) Revoluția Luminilor și Științific   •   (Ceština) Osvícenství a Vědecké Revoluce   •   (Slovenský) Osvietenie a Vedecká Revolúcia   •   (Magyar) A Felvilágosodás és a Tudományos Forradalom   •   (Hrvatski) Prosvjetiteljska i Znanstvena Revolucija   •   (български) Просвещението и Научната Революция   •   (Lietuvos) Apšvieta ir Mokslinė Revoliucija   •   (Slovenščina) Razsvetljenstvo in Znanstvena Revolucija   •   (Latvijas) Apgaismība un Zinātnes Revolūcija   •   (eesti) Valgustusajastu ja Teaduslik Revolutsioon