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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel (book)

Found in: math, science, social studies, preK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel (2014) is a picture book written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford.  You can find it FREE at the library, or for sale on Amazon

George Washingington Gale Ferris, Jr. was a 34-year-old engineer when he entered a contest to design an attraction for the 1893 Chicago’s World’s Fair. The judges hoped for something to surpass Paris’s 1889 Eiffel Tower. Ferris had an idea. He wasn’t content with mere height. He wanted something that would move. Inspired by a water wheel he’d often watched as a boy, he drew plans for a ride 265 feet tall that combined state of the art technology and construction materials.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel explains how World’s Fairs were important in giving technologists an opportunity to share ideas and the public a chance to accept new technology. It also reveals how Chicago’s Fair inspired L. Frank Baum and Walt Disney. The book includes a bibliography of print and Internet resources.

Ferris wheels offer opportunities for K-12 social studies, science, and math students:

  • Lessons:

    In Build a Big Wheel, teams of K-12 math and science students learn about the history and engineering behind big wheels (Ferris wheels) by constructing a working model using pasta, glue, and teabags. Includes standards. Here is a PDF of the same lesson: Build A Big Wheel
    (PDF , 303 KB, 12 pg.).

    In Showing Your Community to the World, social studies students in grades 6-8 investigate environmental and human implications to local communities hosting major expositions or fairs. The lesson includes a map and other materials.

  • Professional Development:

    As part of the video library Mathematics Assessment, Case Study: Ferris Wheel, (17:04) a teacher demonstrates how she coaches her high school pre-calculus students as they develop a function to describe the position of a rider on a double Ferris wheel. The video includes Ferris Wheel Support Materials
    that can be used for a similar lesson.


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