Engage Students with a Creative Printing Press Challenge

I could see it in their eyes.  Yeah, Johannes Gutenberg created the movable type printing press.  So what?  We have internet, yawn.

How could I help them see that this was a revolution in human understanding?

They needed to see that it was more complex than just carving out some letters.

I needed them to make one.

Here's what I did.  And what you can do, too.  You don't need much: Masking tape, styrofoam, rubber bands, a few craft sticks, some washable markers and a sheet or two of paper.
The directions were simple.  Take the supplies and find a way to print all of your names on a piece of paper.  Some kids realized right away that they needed to count how many letters were duplicated in their names.  Those letters only needed to be made once and then re-used.

Others made a letter for every letter in each name.  Letters were carved into styrofoam with craft sticks or scissors.  Or tape was put on craft sticks and letters were written directly on it.  Some students assembled their letters on tape or on craft sticks, others stamped the letters one by one.

 They learned some lessons the hard way.  Names had to be written backwards; letters had to be created backwards!  I wouldn't accept an "N" with the slanted line going the wrong way.

Each class took about 45-50 minutes to print all their names.  But the "WOW" factor was when we talked about the printing press the next day.  They might be part of the social media generation, but they understood a little better how slow, but also how important this achievement was.

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