In our study of 17th Century world history, we spent about 3 weeks on Isaac Newton. A study of Newton’s life includes history, science, Bible, and politics in 1600’s England. Newton lived during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration of the Monarchy (the return of King Charles II to the throne of England), William and Mary, and Queen Anne. The Black Plague and the Great Fire of London affected Newton’s life and studies.
We currently use and love Mystery of History, and typically do studies like this alongside our Mystery of History lessons. This study of Isaac Newton will go well with any history curriculum you use.
Isaac Newton was a fascinating person. He showed his genius early in his life, and so was given the opportunity to go to school for many years. He was also a master Bible scholar; he actually studied and wrote more about the Bible than he did about science and mathematics. A study of Isaac Newton’s life and discoveries is not complete without a study of his faith in a Creator.
Related post: An Education Without God is Not a Complete Education
‘Isaac Newton is generally regarded as the greatest man who ever lived. The French mathematician, Legrange, said, “Newton was the greatest genius that ever existed.” But why was he so great?
First, he showed that there was order in the universe. He removed from the minds of people the alarming fears of superstition and magic.
He discovered how gravity holds the universe together. Because of Newton’s three laws of motion, scientists can accurately calculate the path of a rocket to the moon. After the Appollo moon ship blasted away from the earth toward the moon, Mission Control in Houston asked, “Who is doing the driving?”
“Isaac Newton,” the astronauts replied promptly.
In Book Three of Principia, Isaac Newton showed by a diagram how a huge cannon on top of a mountain above the atmosphere could be used to fire a man-made satellite into orbit about the earth.
He studied light and color with a prism and wrote Opticks, one of the most important books about light. He invented the reflecting telescope. Isaac Newton invented fluxions (called calculus today). This is a method of mathematics which makes difficult problems easy to solve.
As long as science is studied, Sir Isaac Newton will be remembered.
-Chapter 14 Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist, and Teacher
This Vimeo video is a great 3-minute intro to your study.
Books We Read
This post contains affiliate links.
Isaac Newton (Sower Series) – I read this aloud, 2-3 chapters per day, to all of my children. The Sower Series is one of my favorite book series for the lives of great people in history.
Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids – This is part of a series, also, and we love it! It includes Newton’s life, the world he lived in, pictures of documents and experiments, and hands-on activities for you and your children to do.
Other Resources We Used
My younger students used these notebooking pages from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool to practice copywork and take notes on Isaac Newton from the biography above.
They drew a picture of a microscope with the instructions in Draw and Write Through History:
The following quote was also used as copywork toward the end of the study:
“Gravity may put the planets into motion, but without the divine Power, it could never put them into such a circulating motion as they have about the sun; and therefore, for this as well as other reasons, I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an intelligent Agent.”
My high-schoolers added this reading to their curriculum: Isaac Newton – Man of Science, Man of God. Other great resources at this site include:
- Newton’s Approach to Science: Honoring Scripture
- Calculus and Dynamics
- Nye vs. Ham Debate: No True Scotsman
- Hawking Says Universe Created Itself
Newton’s First Law
Build this Inertia Tower from Perkins School for the Blind. From the website, “The object of this activity is to observe the properties of Newton’s First Law by attempting to remove the notecards from a tower of wooden blocks without causing enough of a disturbance to the tower’s equilibrium to cause it to tumble. This is similar to another famous inertia demonstration; the tablecloth trick. That one can be found here (and is a fantastic demonstration to introduce the concepts with): http://www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/motion-and-forces-newtons-first-law-motion. Because the cubes want to resist any change in motion due to their inertia, they will stay in place if the card is removed quickly enough. Try taking each notecard out separately, and once you have done this successfully, try again by having everyone in the group pull the cards out at the same time. Can it be done?… You’ll have to be very precise!”
My kids enjoyed trying this over and over again.
Newton’s Second Law
eHow has a great page of experiment ideas for illustrating Newton’s Second Law of Motion. “Collect a rock and a wadded up piece of paper. Because gravity’s acceleration is a constant, all objects fall at the same rate regardless of their mass. Test this law by dropping both items simultaneously and watching them fall at the same speed. Now place a bowl filled with powdered sugar or flour underneath the rock, and drop it from a fixed height into the powder…”
Newton’s Third Law
Make a Lego balloon-powered car with the instructions at Michelle’s Charmed World. She says, “The principle at work is Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For the Balloon Powered Car, the action is the air rushing out of the balloon once the opening is released. The reaction is the movement of the car forward. The moving Balloon Racer has kinetic energy, but even an object that isn’t moving has energy. This energy is called potential energy. The potential energy of the car is in the elastic material of the balloon. As the balloon fills with air, it builds more potential energy (more air, more energy). As the air flows from the balloon, it changes to kinetic energy. This is the conservation of energy.”
Did you know that Jenga illustrates Newton’s laws? This link has a list of games that incorporate all of Newton’s laws. You can’t get much more hands-on that this!
Notebooking Isaac Newton
We are keeping one notebook per century in our world history study. The sections include a timeline, History, Science, Literature, and Art & Music. Our iIstory pages included a bit about Isaac Newton’s life and achievements (written in cursive), the microscope drawing, a copy of the Principia opening page, and the quote above. We used these printables from Teachers Pay Teachers to document each of Newton’s Laws ($1 download). This free download from Teachers Pay Teachers is a good review sheet for elementary and middle school students. For $7, this entire Force and Motion Interactive Notebook Bundle download would be a great addition to your Isaac Newton study.
The Science section includes notes on the experiments, with these free printables.
Isaac Newton’s Books
Newton wrote many things, not the least of which was his scientific discoveries. As I mentioned above, he was also a Bible scholar, and could have taken Holy Orders in the Church of England. He chose not to, and had to get special permission from the King, so that he could focus more on teaching and discoveries.
He was fascinated with Biblical prophecy. Interestingly, he believed that biblical prophecy was not intended for us to know the future, but was to be used after the events had happened to prove the Bible to be true.
His two works, Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, work together to give a time line of history, proven with the orderliness of mathematical equations on the earth and in the universe.
For any budding scientist, mathematician, Bible scholar, or history buff, Newton’s books are a great addition to your home library.
Newton’s personal friends included John Locke (a philosopher who heavily influenced the American Revolution), Samuel Pepys (credited with the redesign of London after the great fire), Samuel Mantague, and Edmund Halley. It was Edmund Halley who convinced Newton to publish all of his discoveries, which we know as the Prinicpia Mathematica. In turn, Newton gave Halley the information he needed to predict the returning comet which later became known as Halley’s comet. We enjoyed this added part of our study, and all the kids figured up how old they would be when Halley’s comet appears again.
Rounding Out Your Study
A study of Isaac Newton is a great jumping off point for further science and math. You can introduce your students to Physics in a painless way (from elementary through high school) with Physics 101 from the 101 Series. It’s a wonderful, creation-based, DVD science curriculum. The DVDs can be used alone, or your students may choose to complete the curriculum for a high school credit. The 101 Series is not a textbook curriculum, which makes it so much less threatening. Our experience with the 101 Series has been wonderful! My kids (all ages) really love the DVD segments. You can read my review of this science curriculum HERE.
Astronomy is another great rabbit trail to follow. In fact, studying the 17th century is perfect for astronomy, thanks to Newton, Galileo, and Kepler.
Not ready for higher math? How about a quick intro to Calculus? Isaac Newton invented it as a way to solve complicated problems (he called it fluxions). These short videos give a simple (haha, not really!) explanation of calculus.
This is how we study history! Every person or event fits into the bigger picture of World History.
While you’re here, visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore! In it you’ll find the books and the stories that have shaped this great country, the books that influenced our founders and our ancestors, the books that Americans have mostly ignored or never heard of, but the good books that we should all read and protect. Join me in saving Western Civilization, one book at a time!