16 A History of Just About Everything

Elizabeth MacLeod Ontario

Elizabeth MacLeod was managing editor of OWL magazine from 1986 until 1989. She now writes children’s information books, including Why Do Horses Have Manes?, What Did Dinosaurs Eat? and Monster Fliers. Her new book, with Frieda Wishinsky, is A History of Just About Everything. Read more

Frieda Wishinsky Ontario

Frieda Wishinsky is a multi-talented children’s author who writes for all grade levels—picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction. Her first picture book, Oonga Boonga, was voted a Pick of the List by the American Booksellers Association. Her new book, with Elizabeth MacLeod, is A History of Just About Everything. Wishinsky lives in Toronto with her husband. Read more

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Studio 1398
$17 / $8.50 for school groups

Welcome to a one-stop event chronicling the history of the world, beginning six million years ago and ending in 2013. Veteran children’s authors Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky team up to bring you some of the 180 key events and people they’ve identified that have changed our world. What effect did the invention of the wheel have on us? How is the 2011 earthquake in Japan connected to other events and people? And why did Michelangelo paint that ceiling? Their book reads like an annotated timeline for young readers, making history and its impact come alive.

Suitable for grades 3–6

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View the study guide for this event.

A History of Just About Everything


Elizabeth Macleod and Frieda Wishinsky, A History of Just About Everything

Curriculum Connections:

  • Language Arts: non-fiction
  • Fine Arts: music
  • Social Studies: geography, history and global cultural community


As a class, students will choose the ten most important inventions of the 20th century. Next, partners will research important facts about each invention. Then, each student will write about and vote on the one invention that has had the greatest impact on people's lives.

  • Hold a class discussion about some of the most important inventions of the 20th century. Which invention has really changed the way people live? Which ones would be the most difficult to live without? Which inventions have the greatest impact on the most people around the world? Brainstorm ideas and write them on the board.
  • Help students review the list to make sure each invention was invented during the 1900s. If there are questions, assign one or two students to check the facts online.
  • As a class, decide on the ten most important inventions from the list. (You could have students write their ten choices on a list, collect the list, and tally the votes.) Create a new list with the class's "Top 10" list.
  • Divide the students into groups of two or three and have each group research one of the ten inventions using the sites below. On a piece of notebook paper, descriptions should include: the name of the invention, a picture of the invention, the name of the inventor, the date or year it was invented, one or two facts about how it was invented and a description of what it does.
  • Divide students into five groups, each assigned to one of the inventors above. Ask them to answer the following questions: How does this invention help people? How do you think this invention changed the way people live? What kinds of things did this person need to know in order to create his invention? Would you consider this a successful invention? Why or why not?
  • Create a "Top 10 Inventions" bulletin board. Have each group present their report to the class, and hang their reports in a line across the bottom of the board.
  • Finally, ask each student to consider which of these inventions they think is the most important. They should consider which one invention has had the greatest impact on people's lives. Give each student an index card. On their cards, they should write the name of the invention they chose and two to three sentences describing why that innovation is the most important to our lives today.
  • Have each student read his or her card aloud and place it above the report for that invention. The cards should be placed one above the other over each invention, creating a visual bar graph. Which invention did students vote number 1, and why.