Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Great Wheel - Homeschool Lesson on The Ferris Wheel, 1893

Several months ago we bought a curriculum that we thought we would use solely, however that didn't pan out but I kept the books and such and have been pulling this and that from it all year long.

I pulled this one off the shelf a week or so ago and we began reading it.

The Great Wheel, by Robert Lawson.  It is about the building of the first Ferris Wheel for the Chicago's World's Fair in 1893.  The fictional story is weaved in with factual information about the construction of the wheel.  The main character, Conn is an Irish immigrant and we follow him from Ireland, on the boat to America, and his involvement with the Ferris Wheel. The story is intriguing and both me and my preteen children enjoyed the story.

I picked it up with really no plan other than to read it together as a family.  From our read much has sparked our interest.  We are at this point half way through the story and we have already done quite a bit of research on the first Ferris wheel as well as on Mr. Ferris himself.  We have also had great discussions on concrete and how it sets, setting footings for large buildings and structures, and on weight disbursement.

I thought I would offer a few sites that we found some great information to help your lesson if you choose to read this wonderful story.

Here is a wonderful "Mixbook" that someone created with photos of the great wheel which gave us a better understanding of how big this thing was and what it all looked like.  It also has photos of typical homes in Ireland at the time and typical people who would have worked on the wheel.

Here is an great article of the creation and end of the Ferris Wheel of the Exposition of 1893.  It uses higher vocabulary as much of it is from news articles of the time.  Meant for older students and adults.

Here is a pretty thorough article of the 1893 World's Fair.  It includes information about Nicola Tesla's experiments, women's rights, a telautograph, and lots more.  It also has pictures of the fair as well as the advertising art and maps of the grounds.

Here is a good picture of the carriages.

Here is a great picture of the Ferris Wheel.

Here is a good picture of how big the carriages were.

Here is a picture of it towering over all the buildings of the Fair. It stood 296 ft tall.

Here is a great YOU TUBE video created by a group of students on the 1893 World's Fair.  It gives a wonderful overview of the fair.

I will continue to add to this post as we continue to read the book and find more interesting things to research.

If you found this post helpful, please leave me a quick "thank you" comment.  This way I know that posting things like this is worth my time.  If you have any questions or comments or suggestions please post those in the comments as well. :)

Happy Reading!


  1. Thank you for sharing this post! Its been very helpful as we begin reading this book!

  2. THANK YOU for sharing! So helpful!