Lighthouses Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Lighthouses can be found along every coast in the world. In this lesson, find out about the very first lighthouse and discover how lighthouses have changed over the years.

Avoiding a Ship Wreck

Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the rough seas of the ocean. You know land is near, but it's night and you can't see anything. There are legends of rocks by the shore. One wrong move and your ship will run into the rocks and sink. Luckily, just as your heart starts to pound, a light shines across the water, showing you the way. The light is from a lighthouse. A lighthouse is a tower with a bright light at the top to warn and guide ships at sea.

Lighthouses have played an important role in the history of our world. Believe it or not, lighthouses date back thousands of years! Let's find out more about them.

Beacons of Light

Lighthouses come in all different sizes and shapes and each has a unique pattern and color. Lighthouses were built at the entryway to harbors where boats would dock. They were also built on islands, rocky ledges and reefs. Lighthouse keepers lived at the lighthouse to make sure there was always a light shining during the night.

The first lighthouses used fire beacons by burning coal or wood. A beacon is a warning light or signal, like the light of a lighthouse. Oil lamps and candles were also used, but if the weather was bad the light could go out. Smoke could also dim the light. It was important for the lighthouse keeper to go up to the tower and check on the lanterns at least three times a night.

Boston Light

And what if there was fog that dimmed the light? In early times, the lighthouse keeper had to fire off a cannon every hour. Later on, the foghorn was created to make a warning noise.

The Fresnel Lens

Luckily, in 1821, a man named Augustin Fresnel (pronounced 'Fray-nel') created the Fresnel lens. The Fresnel lens was like a really big lampshade made out of hundreds of pieces of glass that surrounded a light bulb. When the light was turned on, the glass would change the direction of the light, creating a beam. Each lighthouse had its own pattern of flashing lights. The lights would signal to the sailor how far he was away from the land.

Fresnel Lens

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