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A giant leap for technology

Astronaut on moon with American flag erected


I’m not old enough to remember the first Moon landing. Honestly, I’m not. But it was such a huge event that the images and feeling of elation felt by so many people about the achievement is still very tangible. Do you know someone the children could interview about the Moon landing? Do they have a grandparent who remembers it?

My own children find it hard to understand what life was like in 1969 and how big an event the Moon landing was. Why not take a trip back to 1969 and try to imagine what it was like?

How to start

You could take a trip back to 1969. What technology was around then? What did phones look like? Or the TV people watched the Moon landing on? The cars? Perhaps the children could ask their grandparents what was different between then and now. Do they have any photo albums from the time? This could lead to a wonderful investigation into how technology has changed, which could be integrated into your Grandparents Day celebrations.

Start a phone museum or see if you can find photos of local buildings and cars from that era. Maybe relatives or the local library can help. Do any of the parents or grandparents still have an old phone or other appliances, maybe a toaster? Do you have an old-fashioned toy phone or, even better, a real one from the past? Look at the phone icon on a smartphone together: Do children know why a picture of a receiver represents a phone? Why did we have telephone boxes?

What’s the STEM?

Technology has changed rapidly in the last 50 years. An investigation into changes in telephone technology or pictures of old cars can spark many conversations. These might lead into a closer investigation of form and functionality then and now and how technology affects everyday life.

Observations, conclusions and extensions

Ask the children how they think telephones work. How does the noise travel from one phone to another? How do they think landlines work? Do they have a landline at home? For some hands-on investigation, you could make a tin can telephone with the children and try out when it does and doesn’t work and how you can improve it with different types of cups, different string length, etc.

Interesting facts for adults

When you speak into a landline phone, you produce sound waves, which are converted into electrical energy inside the phone. The electrical energy travels through wires to another phone and is converted from electrical energy to sound waves again, which can be heard by someone on the other end of the phone! Mobile phones work differently. You can think of the mobile phone as a two-way radio that transmits and receives. It converts your voice into an electrical signal, which is transferred through a network of radio towers using radio waves to your friend’s phone, which converts the radio waves to an electrical signal and then finally back to sound. You can also use the internet to make calls, which is something completely different again. VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol. The system works a little like a traditional telephone line but digital signals and the internet replace the wires.

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