Although Garrett Morgan wasn't the first person to invent the stoplight, he did come up with the idea to add another color, yellow, that gave drivers a warning that the green light was about to change to red. Kindergartners can play stop and go games using traffic light signals and take turns being the driver or the traffic light. They can also learn about the history of cars and the importance of Morgan's invention.
Roads in the Early 1900s
Roads during Garrett Morgan's time were filled with the first cars, bikes, horse-drawn carriages and wagons as well as pedestrians. Have kindergartners draw or color a picture representing each type of transportation and tell them to make their streets as busy as possible; fill them with a lot of bikes, cars and people. Alternatively, give children model cars, bikes, horse-drawn wagons and people to play with and designate one area on the floor of the classroom as the "street."
The First Traffic Light
Ask children to walk around the classroom as if they were driving a car, riding a bike, walking on the street or riding in a carriage. When you say "Go" and hold up a green sign, they should move. When you say "Stop" and hold up a red sign, they should stop. Tell them that the first traffic lights, which originated in London (point to London on a map), only told drivers whether to stop or go and didn't give them any warning, like by flashing a yellow light, as Garrett Morgan later envisioned.
Garrett Morgan's Traffic Light
Explain to kindergartners that Garrett Morgan invented a traffic light that had three lights: one for stop, one for go and a yellow light that acts as a warning. Ask children to color a photocopied, black-and-white drawing of a traffic light. Show them which lights are green, red and yellow. Have them get up and walk around the room again. This time, use yellow to indicate that they are about to stop. Ask them if it was easier to see a warning before they had to stop.
Garrett Morgan's Life
Kindergartners can learn about Garrett Morgan's life and his other contributions to society. He was born in 1877 in Kentucky (identify the state on a map). Garrett Morgan began working as sewing machine repairman and soon opened his own shop. He also sold garments and became wealthy enough to open the Cleveland Call newspaper in 1920. After witnessing a traffic accident, he decided to design a traffic light in hopes of preventing more accidents. Prompt students to think about something they would like to make safer at school or on the playground and have them think about or draw inventions that might help.
Cara Murphy holds a Master of Arts in communication with an emphasis in online journalism. Murphy is a stay-at-home mom who has worked as a writer for several years and appreciates that writing allows her to spend more time with her son.