The Age of Enlightenment Lesson Plans

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. Many of these ideas were forged by the Scientific Revolution just 150 or so years prior. 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.

Student Activities for The Enlightenment/Scientific Revolution

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?

A Brief Overview of The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution

Science evolved dramatically during this time period, particularly during the mid 16th century in the Scientific Revolution. 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". These new, innovative ideas impacted politics, science, and social issues of this era.

With the activities in this lesson plan, students will analyze both the long and short-term ramifications of these “revolutionary” ideas. Students will be able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of both the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment and understand the links between history and our world today.

Image Attributions
  • aquarelle: Curemonte - France • guymoll • License Attribution (
  • Figeac - France • guymoll • License Attribution (
  • Geneva • ITU Pictures • License Attribution (
  • Jupiter • tonynetone • License Attribution (
  • Microscope • Calsidyrose • License Attribution (
  • Neuschwanstein Castle • robef • License Attribution (
  • Rome • Moyan_Brenn • License Attribution (
  • Rome • Moyan_Brenn • License Attribution (
  • The Fighting Cocks - pub in Moseley - Temperature Gauge / Barometer • ell brown • License Attribution (
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