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CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will learn about the inventions of ancient China and will gain an understanding of the kinds of engineering skills required to produce them.

Teacher preparation

Time required for lesson

Approximately 40 minutes. Homework time is required.

Materials needed

  • Optional: Computers with internet connections to access the engineers overview from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • Student handouts:
    • List of Chinese inventions
    • Worksheet: “Which Type of Engineer?”
    • Worksheet: “Chinese Inventions in Everyday Life”
  • Printed copies of engineers overview from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, if students won’t have access to the internet during the lesson


  1. Introduce the lesson by asking students if they know who invented the umbrella. The kite? Paper? The hot air balloon? Printing? Tell them that these are just a few of the technological advancements China developed in ancient times.
  2. Hand out the list of Chinese inventions. If students have access to the internet or print reference material, encourage them to research any inventions with which they are unfamiliar.
  3. Brainstorm with the class the characteristics an individual would have to possess to be able to design innovations like these, e. g. resourcefulness, creativity, industriousness, problem-solving skills, mathematical skills, ability to synthesize ideas, engineering talents, etc.
  4. Ask students to define creativity. (There are many ways to define creativity, but students should agree that creativity is the ability to produce new ideas, new things, or new knowledge.) Discuss the idea that there are many ways to be creative, including creativity in the arts, in technology, and in the sciences. People who invent, design, and build innovative new things are called engineers. Tell the students that there are many different types of engineers.
  5. Have students use the internet to access the engineers overview from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. If students don’t have access to the internet, pass out printed copies of the overview. The overview includes a list of different types of engineers, with a brief description of each. Go over the descriptions with the class.
  6. Pass out the “Which Type of Engineer?” worksheet. Have the students match the appropriate engineer to each of the inventions listed.
  7. Hand out the worksheet “Chinese Inventions in Everyday Life” and instruct students to complete the table on the worksheet. Follow up with a class discussion, asking students to share their responses about how inventions from China affect their lives.
  8. Homework assignment: Have students talk to their parents to come up with a list of the ten most important inventions they use in their households. After each item, have them list the type(s) of engineers that probably helped develop that invention.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 8: The learner will assess the influence and contributions of individuals and cultural groups in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 8.03: Identify major discoveries, innovations, and inventions and assess their influence on societies past and present.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.H.2 Understand the political, economic and/or social significance of historical events, issues, individuals and cultural groups. 6.H.2.1 Explain how invasions, conquests, and migrations affected various civilizations, societies and regions (e.g. Mongol invasion,...