BEN AND ME
SUBJECTS — Biography/Franklin; U.S./1750 – 1812 & Pennsylvania; Science- Technology;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Friendship;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Citizenship.
AGE: 8 & 9; Not Rated;
Animated; 1953; 27 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.
For children ages, 5 – 8, see Talking and Playing for Growth Guide to “Ben and Me”.
In this charming Disney classic, a mouse named Amos claims credit for many of Benjamin Franklin’s accomplishments and inventions.
This film will introduce children to Benjamin Franklin: scientist, inventor, educator, patriot, diplomat, printer, author, philosopher, musician, public servant and economist. Franklin (1706-1790) was a Founding Father of the United States and one of the most remarkable men produced by Western civilization. It will also demonstrate the fun and importance of inventions and experiments.
BEFORE WATCHING THE MOVIE
Tell your child as much about Ben Franklin as you can. Not only was he a great scientist who made important discoveries about electricity, he was also a great patriot. He helped pass the Declaration of Independence. Later, he served as ambassador to France. The French King sent his Navy to help with the War of Independence. It stopped the British from escaping by sea at Yorktown and assisted in the victory that won the war. Franklin was also an author, a newspaper publisher, and an inventor. We still use some of his inventions. Ben Franklin thought up the idea of public libraries that lend books to people.
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. You and your child can experience the fun and excitement of inventing. Collect a couple of household items (like empty 2-liter bottles, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, paper plates and bowls, aluminum foil, shoe boxes, rubber bands, etc.), as well as some tape, glue or pipe cleaners, and set everything out. Work with your child to invent something new from these everyday objects. (For example: if you wrap rubber bands across a shoebox without the lid, you’ve made a guitar!)
2. You can also perform safe and entertaining experiments from home. Place two teaspoons of baking soda into a clean empty soda pop bottle and add an inch of water. Next, take a balloon and place a tablespoon of white vinegar into the balloon. Cover the mouth of the bottle tightly with the mouth of the balloon without releasing the vinegar into the bottle. Then release the vinegar and allow it to flow into the bottle. What happens to the balloon? (It should inflate with carbon dioxide gas formed in the chemical reaction.) A simpler version of the same experiment is to take the clean, empty soda bottle and pour a little bit of baking soda in the bottom. Go outside, or place the bottle into the bathtub or large plastic container (to contain the mess!). Slowly add white vinegar. Have children who can write take notes about how the experiment was set up, what was added, and what happened. Explain that making these “observations” are what real scientists and inventors do to try to understand what happened.
3. Collect various items from around the house and from your backyard or a park (e.g., small rocks, twigs, leaves, empty soda can, paper crumpled into a ball, aluminum foil and aluminum foil crumpled into a ball). Fill up a sink, bathtub, or large plastic tub with water. Ask your child which items will sink and which will float. Make a list of each item you have collected and make a check to the right of the ones that your child thinks will sink. (This is the “hypothesis.” A scientist when he designs an experiment states what he thinks will happen and then goes about finding a way to test it out.) Then, one by one, drop the objects in the water. As each object either floats or sinks put an X next to the name of the objects that sink. When you have dropped each object into the water see how your Xs and check marks line up. Was your child’s hypothesis correct? If your child is interested, take the next step and try to decide why certain objects float and others sink. Form a new hypothesis about that. Let your child think one up and then figure out a way to test it. For example, you could test whether objects of one color float and objects of another color sink. When that hypotheses is disproven, try another. When you are ready to get to the one that works, try: if the object is heavier than the amount of water of the same size, it will sink. Otherwise it will float. Then test your new hypothesis with other objects to see if it works. Explain that we learn new things by experimenting, and by testing our ideas to see if they are right.
4. Talk about things that Ben Franklin invented or studied. Show some examples in your house. Possibilities are: electricity, bifocals, a rocking chair, an almanac, and a Franklin stove. Count how many light bulbs you have in your house. Talk about other inventions that were important, like the telephone. Share with your child what your favorite invention is, and ask him or her to do the same.
5. In the movie, we were able to see a little bit about the history of Amos’ family. Make a family tree for them. Find a a tree template online or make your own by drawing a simple tree with branches on a piece of paper. Then add your child’s name at the very top. Work down, adding siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. You can simply write their names or do a stick-figure drawing, or you can use real photographs. Talk about your family’s history including where your family came from, name changes, etc.
TALKING FOR GROWTH
The themes of this movie include:
1. Inventions and experiments are fun and important.
2. Helping other people is something anyone can do.
3. Ben Franklin was an admirable person.
4. Ben Franklin’s Aphorisms.
Inventions and experiments are fun and important.
1. Name and talk about some of the things that Ben Franklin (and Amos) invented. Do we still use any of Ben’s inventions? Which ones? Are there any in the house?
Talking about it:
Help your child recall the inventions shown in the film; bifocals, the Franklin stove, the rocking chair, the lightning rod, and the almanac. We still use many of Ben’s inventions. Talk about how these inventions work and help us out.
- Bifocals: These are glasses which have two different corrections. The one on the bottom half of the lens is for looking at things that are close when we are reading or sewing. The top half of the lens is for looking at things far away. If they use bifocals, people won’t need two pairs of glasses.
- The Franklin Stove: This is a metal stove set in the center of the room with a pipe going through the roof to take away the smoke and dangerous fumes from the fire. It puts out more heat than a fireplace because all sides of the fire are heating the air in the room. This is much better than a fireplace set against an outside wall. Heat from one side of the fire escapes outside.
- The Rocking Chair: Can you imagine life without rocking chairs?
- The Lightning Rod: Franklin was the first to discover that lightning was a form of electricity. In those days lightning struck many buildings. Once they were struck with lightning the buildings usually burned to the ground. Franklin realized that if you stuck a metal pole above the roof of the building and ran a wire from the pole to the ground, the lightning would strike the pole and follow the wire into the ground without burning the building. This invention is still used today and has saved countless barns, houses, and other buildings.
- The Almanac: This is a book full of helpful facts. Show your child an almanac. If you don’t have one get one from the library and be sure to remind your child that Ben Franklin invented the concept of the lending library. Look through the almanac together and find some interesting facts.
Helping other people is something anyone can do.
2. How did Amos (a tiny little mouse) help Ben (a big man)?
Talking about it:
Because he was so small, Amos was able to reach into places that Ben couldn’t. Amos could move around quickly, like in the printing press. He also helped Ben invent bifocals and the Franklin stove. He is the one who discovered electricity and gave Ben the idea for the Pennsylvania Gazette. He assisted Ben in answering Ben’s fan mail. Point out that children can be very helpful, too. Your child should, from an early age, have some small chores to do around the house. Use this as an occasion for praise and tell your child how much you appreciate his or her help.
Ben Franklin was an admirable person.
3. Why was Ben Franklin so important to American history? What kinds of things did he do for our country?
Talking about it:
He was one of the leaders of the Revolution. He invented many important things that we still use today. Without him, we wouldn’t have electricity! He also showed the rest of the world that Americans were smart, important and deserved their independence.
4. There have been many wise men and women who have contributed to our country. These include Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, Clara Barton, and Betsy Ross. Look up information about these great people online or check out books from the library about important men and women in American history.
Ben Franklin’s Aphorisms.
Benjamin Franklin coined many aphorisms. These are wise sayings that can be put into one sentence. A few are set out below. Tell your child what they mean. Have your child memorize some of them.
- A penny saved is a penny earned.
- Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
- Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.
- God helps those who help themselves.
- Little strokes fell great oaks.
- A good example is the best sermon.
- The nearest way to come to glory, is to do that for conscience which we would do for glory.
- The noblest question in the world is: “What good may I do in it?”
- Sell not virtue to purchase wealth nor liberty to purchase power.
- If thou injurest conscience, it will have its revenge on thee.
- Fear to do ill [wrong] and you need fear nothing else.
Retell the story at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Feel free to add different things that happened to Ben and Amos. Make up a story about how Ben was captured and put in jail by the British because of his activities on behalf of the American Revolution. Have Amos be instrumental in picking the lock on his jail house door and allowing Ben to escape. Give them many kinds of mishaps along the way, like almost getting recaptured, running into a British cat that tried to stop them, and so on as far as you want to go.
1. Why did Amos leave Ben after the kite and electricity experiment? Was he right to leave? Talking about it: Amos left because Ben was not acting as a friend when he sent Amos to do very dangerous things. Although Amos had offered Ben his help, he had to draw the line somewhere. Amos was right to leave Ben, and Ben realized that he had been responsible for hurting Amos. After a little while, Amos returned and forgave Ben, and the two were able to work together again.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)
See question at Theme Topic #3.
ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES
retell the story – or better have your child retell it;
make up new stories with the characters and themes from the video;
play with stuffed animals and toys;
take field trips;
read related books; and
act out the stories.
For more activities, see Ideas for Playing and Talking — Developmental and Educational Advancement for Children 3 to 8.
BRIDGES TO READING
This film was derived from a delightful book by Robert Lawson. Children who are excellent readers in the 3rd grade and good readers in the 4th and 5th grades can read it themselves. Robert Lawson has written several excellent books for children ages 7 – 12 telling stories of famous individuals through the eyes of animals, including Mr. Revere and I and Captain Kidd’s Cat. For more experiments, see The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments: A Franklin Institute Science Museum Book
Here is a list, probably incomplete, of all of the different ways in which Ben Franklin excelled.
Franklin the Scientist:
Franklin was the first person to accurately describe the way in which electricity worked. He introduced the terms “plus” and “minus,” “positive” and “negative,” “charge,” and “battery.” Franklin proposed the concept of a single “fluid” of electricity and was the first to explain the principle of conservation of charge. He accurately predicted the outcome of manipulations of electrostatics, such as the production of electric charges in objects and the transfer of that charge. Franklin discovered that lightning was a form of electricity. He also found that pointed instruments take on and discharge electricity more efficiently than blunt instruments. From these observations, Franklin invented the lightning rod which protects buildings and other structures from the effects of a lightning strike by conducting the electrical energy of the strike into the ground. (For a description of thunder and lightning see Learning Guide to The Sound of Music.) Franklin’s articles on electricity were published in the leading scientific journal of the time. He was the first American recognized as a great scientist. For his work in electricity, Franklin was elected to England’s Royal Society, the preeminent scientific organization of its day. He was one of only eight non-Englishmen so honored during the period in which he lived.
While his pioneering work in electricity was his foremost scientific achievement, Franklin was active in many other areas of science. He contributed to the knowledge of the Gulf Stream, publishing the first map showing its course. Franklin made discoveries concerning atmospheric convection currents, the direction of the motion of storms, cloud formation, and the electrification of clouds. Franklin wrote on many medical issues, such as lead poisoning, gout, deafness, and infection from dead bodies. Franklin initially opposed inoculation but later changed his mind and wrote a statistical survey supporting it. Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society, the first permanent scientific organization in the New World.
Franklin the Inventor:
Franklin was not just a theoretical scientist. He was able to turn his scientific and everyday observations to practical use, creating inventions which are still used today. A few are set out below:
- bifocals; the Franklin Stove; the lightning rod; the rocking chair; a flexible catheter; the harmonica.
Franklin also conceived of the idea of daylight saving time. Franklin designed and built the machines on which his scientific experiments were performed. It was said that Franklin had “both a head to conceive” and a “hand to carry into execution” whatever may illuminate the subject of his interests.
Ben Franklin did not apply for a patent for his lightning rod or for his stove, or, so far as we know, for any device that he invented. While he was not wealthy he was well off and would never have to work again. He therefore felt that he owed it to society to permit these inventions to be distributed without paying him a royalty.
Franklin the Patriot:
Franklin, once he became convinced that independence was the necessary, became a ferocious advocate for American independence from Great Britain. He was instrumental in convincing the Second Continental Congress to declare open revolt against Great Britain. (See Learning Guide to 1776). Franklin helped to write, and was a signatory to, the Declaration of Independence. (Franklin understood the seriousness of revolution, reminding his cosignatories that if Great Britain won the war: “We must all hang together, or we shall surely all hang separately.”) Franklin was also a member of the Constitutional Convention. He was Ambassador to France and emissary to Great Britain, helping to negotiate the treaty which established independence for the United States.
Franklin the Author:
Franklin was the author of many pamphlets and articles. He wrote The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Franklin the Public Servant:
In addition to his service as a diplomat, member of the Continental Congresses and member of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin served in various public offices. He was the first Post Master General of the United States. He served as Clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly for many years.
Franklin the Public Spirited Citizen:
Franklin helped establish important public institutions for the City of Philadelphia, including a fire company, a library, an insurance company, a school (later to become the University of Pennsylvania), a hospital and a scientific society. In some cases these institutions were the first of their kind in North America.
Franklin the Musician:
Franklin loved music and loved to play it. He invented the armonica, a musical instrument consisting of a series of glass hemispheres mounted on a horizontal rod on which they could be spun, creating musical tones. Franklin’s armonica was popular in the late 18th and in the 19th centuries. Mozart and Beethoven, among others, composed music for it.
Franklin the Athlete:
Until old age, Franklin was physically active. Swimming was his favorite exercise. He favored getting out into the fresh air.
LINKS TO THE INTERNET
For more information about important Americans, visit Lives of Early Americans.
- Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, and Statesman, I. Bernard Cohen, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1975;
- The Most Dangerous Man in America, Catherine Drinker Bowen, Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1974; and Encyclopedia Britannica.