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Who Can Harness the Wind?

Find out how a 14-year-old in Malawi figured out how to generate electricity. Celebrate his creativity with cut-paper collages of swirling air.

  • Grade 1
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Ask children to imagine what their lives would be like without electricity. What would they do? In many parts of the world, electricity is not available!
    2. Find Malawi on a map of Africa. How far away is it from where you live?
    3. Read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” with the group. Ask children to focus on why and how William invented his windmill.
    4. About mid-way through the book, point out how the windmill idea takes shape. How does the artist represent the breeze? What medium does the illustrator use to show the tower and blades on the windmill? What sound do they think the wind makes in the windmill? Compare waves of air to light and sound waves.
    5. After reading, discuss with children how inventions change people’s lives. What inventions have made a difference in their lives?
    6. Review the illustrations to see how concentric circles were used to show the movement of wind. Ask children to decorate paper with Crayola® Construction Paper™ Crayons to show movement—with their original ideas.
    7. Ask children to cut their designed paper in several wavy strips using Crayola Scissors. They can cut straight strips if they want to make the tower, too.
    8. Children experiment with placement of their cut paper on another plain piece of paper. They use Crayola Glue Sticks to assemble their collages in a way that represents movement of the wind.
  • Standards

    LA: Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

    LA: Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Reason with shapes and their attributes.

    SCI: Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.

    SCI: Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    SS: Identify and describe examples in which science and technology have changed the lives of people, such as in homemaking, childcare, work, transportation, and communication.

    SS: Examine the effects of changing technologies on the global community.SS: Examine the effects of changing technologies on the global community.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools such as atlases, data bases, systems, charts, graphs, and maps to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

    VA: Students demonstrate an understanding that art communicates about and helps viewers understand the natural and constructed world.

  • Adaptations

    Create paper pinwheels.

    Find out what William Kamkwamba is doing today.

    Research other inventions, old or recent.

    Visit a wind farm. How is this method of generating electricity similar to Williams’ windmill? How is it different? Learn more about alternate sources for generation of electricity.

    Ask someone from Malawi or a neighboring country to talk with the class about life in developing countries in Africa.

    Ask children to design and build functional windmills using primarily recycled materials.

    Encourage children to invent their own machines. What job would they like a machine to do? Invent it? Create a model if possible.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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