Integrating Technology: Making Myriopticons

Myriopticon photo by Robert Brammer

OK, so this post isn’t about digital technology but it does present an idea for combining history with a maker lab of sorts that incorporates math, engineering and art.

Let’s take a look at a blog post from In Custodia Legis, which features, “A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion” myriopticon, a toy manufactured by Milton Bradley around 1865. “The myriopticon was an educational device targeted at prepubescent boys that consists of a box containing a painted scroll and two scroll tubes. A key is inserted through the box and into the scroll tube to rotate the scroll.” According to a feature in the New York Times, the myriopticon was made of cardboard and “came with directions, lecture, a poster and tickets.” Read the blog post to learn more about this artifact from the Civil War era and to access videos of the myriopticon. Did it spark any ideas?

As a summative assessment project, you could challenge students to create their own myriopticons of a key event in history. By doing so, they will not only be practicing CCSS literacy skills but also using these skills to create. Students should first curate a set of primary sources from the Library. You could provide a larger set for them to choose from or have them conduct research on their own. Students should then analyze the primary sources, conduct additional research if necessary, and write a script to tell the story of the event. Next, they’ll want to print out or re-create drawings of the primary sources that they will use in their myriopticons. Finally, they will need to engineer and assemble the myriopticons. After, make sure to allow time to have students present their myriopticon stories. You may even want to film them to share with parents and the community.


  • Curate a set of primary sources.
  • Analyze primary sources.
  • Conduct additional research.
  • Write a script.
  • Engineer and assemble a myriopticon.
  • Present the story.