A ‘Renaissance Man’ Teacher and a Crossing Guard

Steve the Crossing Guard is an extraordinary teacher.  A ‘Renaissance Man’ teacher.  He is electric.  He thinks outside of the box.  And he truly understands children.  That’s what Jennie says.

Wikipedia says:
When the term “Renaissance man” is used, it does not mean that the man really lived in the Renaissance. It can be used for anyone who is very clever at many different things, no matter when that person lived. Albert Schweitzer was a 20th century “Renaissance man” who was a theologian, musician, philosopher and doctor.[3] Benjamin Franklin was a “Renaissance man” who lived in the 18th century (1700s) and was an author and printer, politician, scientist, inventor and soldier.[4]

That is Steve.  His latest blog post sums up what he did this school year at his ‘curbside classroom.’  Hang on for a great ride, and get ready to be challenged.  Don’t miss the end.  You will be glued:

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper

“Who invented the swim fins?” (You’ll be surprised)

“Who invented the swivel chair?”

“Who invented the first automatic flush toilet?” (7 1/2 gpf…Yikes!)

“..,the baseball mitt, the sewing machine, electric kettle and phonograph?”

Do you see a trend? These were but a few questions tossed my way during our recent ‘stump the crossing guard’ activity at our ‘curbside classroom’. The topic was ‘inventions’. Challenge me with an invention, and I’ll tell you the inventor. Really? I could do that?

“…the zipper, pink flamingo and thimble?”

The truth is, I don’t know inventors, Jefferson and Edison were my default answers, and Crapper was a ‘throw in’ for some subtle humor. But I do know how to stimulate curiosity in the preteens and teens at my school crossing post.

Ask questions, awe them with facts, dare to challenge them, mix in some fun and you’ve got a winning formula for a positive start to the school day, even before they get to their building.

The early morning light showed smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of kids genuinely interested in the ‘game’, as they peppered me with inventions, some common and others, not so common. Those who didn’t have a challenge listened with interest. Now, that’s a positive.

“Who invented Velcro? (Great question, but do you know the story behind it)

“Who invented the thunder lamp?” (Would have loved one back in the 60s)

“Who invented the umbrella?” (Useful this Spring)

The questions went on, requiring me to do some follow-up research to verify answers (below). And, to that point, the only rule was that they had to know the inventor’s name.

“Who invented the Diesel engine (there actually was a guy named Diesel), the chocolate chip cookie (my wife baked some this weekend…they’re gone), and, the traffic light (no, he wasn’t a crossing guard)?

“Bifocals?” (the same fellow who did the swim fins)

Adults crossing with the kids joined the fun. “Who invented the ‘reaper-binder’, the ‘manhole cover’ and what did BF Goodrich invent?”

The end of the school year will be here anon. It’s been a good one at our crossing post with lots of smiles, good conversation and latent learning. While the formal education occurs inside the brick buildings, the day begins earlier, on the sidewalk, with an informal ‘game of Life’ at our ‘curbside classroom’.

Who invented the ‘flying shuttle, printing press, the light bulb’?

I’ve provided a list of the inventions we discussed. As a sidebar, it was not unusual for a discussion to break out over an invention, or the inventor.

I enjoyed the ‘challenge’, as the kids seemed to do, as well, so much so that I believe they expect more. Your ideas and participation are welcomed.


To all the creators who made our lives simpler with something new every day, and to the students, who help make our mornings a fun time by both listening and participating.


Like many inventions, some were credited to the wrong person, especially in cases where someone didn’t actually invent, but improved a product This list is the best information I found using Wikipedia and other sources. If there’s a correction, please note it in the comments.

Swivel Chair: Thomas Jefferson, who purportedly signed the Declaration of Independence from said chair.

Light bulb: Joseph Swan, Sir Hiram Maxim AND Thomas Edison. (1835)

Printing press: Johannes Gutenberg)2438)

Flying shuttle (a weaving tool): John Kay (1733)

Manhole cover: Thomas Crapper (still collectibles in England).

Reaper-binder: (a farm implement, as an enhancement to the reaper) Charles Baxter Withington (1872)

Bi-focales: Ben Franklin (he used them frequently but whether or not he in invented them is subject to debate)

Traffic light: JP Knight, am English train engineer (1868)

Chocolate chip cookie: Ruth Graves Wakefield (1938)

Diesel engine: Rudolph Diesel (1893)

Umbrella: more than 4000 ago, but waterproofed by the Chinese in 11th Century BC.

Thunder lamp: Richard Clarkson (2013, do you have one)

Velcro: George deMestral (1941)

Thimble: John Lofting (subject to debate) (1693)

Pink flamingo: Don Featherstone, Designer) (1957)

Zipper: Whitcomb Jutson (1890s)

Phonograph: Thomas Edison (1877)

Electric kettle: Arthur Leslie Lang (1891)

Sewing machine: Thomas Saint (1790)

Baseball mitt: Bill Doak, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (1920), but subject to a great deal of controversy.

Flush toilet: (1596). Several names attributed. Thomas Crapper did not invent it but he significantly improved it with subsequent inventions.

Bendy straw: Joseph Friedman (1937)

Swim fins: Ben Franklin (1717)

Wheel: early man

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, teaching, wonder and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to A ‘Renaissance Man’ Teacher and a Crossing Guard

  1. Opher says:

    Well I would never have guessed many of them!
    Your Crossing Guard is quite a guy!

    • Jennie says:

      I would never have guessed either. He is remarkable.

    • srbottch says:

      Well, I got stumped a lot and the winners were all the kids who participated by offering an invention , or participating in the chatter about the inventions. But it’s always good to take a ‘SWAG’ at them. Thanks for your comment.

  2. beetleypete says:

    Steve continues to deliver! Well done to him. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Ritu says:

    Great questions and a whole host of learning opportunities!

  4. GP Cox says:

    A fun trivia/history lesson!!

  5. I just love the curbside classroom, the appetizer before the main course!

  6. srbottch says:

    Thanks, Jennie. Such a nice thing you do to support my efforts. I’ll share your nice words with the kids. Have a great day! 😎

  7. Darlene says:

    These kids are so lucky to have Steve for a crossing guard. What a great start to their day! I didn’t know many of these but I did know Johannes Gutenberg. (as a writer, I should know that one) I was however surprised at the date you have listed as it appears the printing press has yet to be invented!!

    • srbottch says:

      Well, I should recheck my info. Sometimes, I feel as though I’m the student with the questions the kids ask. Thanks for commenting.

      • Darlene says:

        I realize it is just a typo. 2438 would be a long time to wait for something as important as a printing press. I’m sure the kids ask some pretty amazing questions. They are our future!!

    • Jennie says:

      They are very lucky to have Steve at the crossing. I will defer to Steve to answer about Gutenberg. Thank you, Darlene!

  8. What a fun post. I actually knew bifocals and chocolate chip cookies. This made me think about everything I take for granted and how at some point, someone had to invent it! Steve is a marvel. What fun. Thanks for the smile, Jennie.

  9. I’m very glad that those people were so creative and invented all those conveniences for us.

  10. Wonderful history, and learning lesson! I knew several but had no idea on other inventions.

    I’m looking forward to next year’s Chronicles of Steve the Crossing Guard.

  11. Dan Antion says:

    Steve is a rare gift.

    I’m glad to see “Bendy straw” on that list – where would we be without it?

  12. That’s just awesome. My Dad is a crossing guard, I can’t imagine him throwing out fun facts like this every day to his kids!! Lol… 😉

    • Jennie says:

      Steve is amazing. And with your dad, you can understand all that he does. Thank you! 😀

    • srbottch says:

      Thank you. I’ll bet your dad interacts with ‘his’ kids in ways that would surprise you. It’s almost magical that when we put on the yellow garb, we take on another personality. A couple of the guards in my town have been doing it for over 25 years, one lady since 1985 🙀. Have a great day!

      • He sure does. He absolutely loves being around the kids each morning and afternoon. In fact, another 2 of my dad’s brothers are crossing guards as well. I’m still waiting for an opportunity to take a photo of the three of them together in their uniforms.
        Have a great day too 😊

      • srbottch says:

        So, yellow is a popular color in your family😂. Seriously, the kids do and say the unexpected and it makes it fun. Have to stay on your toes. I was out yesterday and this morning a HS girl said, ‘we missed you’. That sure made my day. Give my regards to your dad.

      • That’s so cute. It’s the little things that makes your job so rewarding. All the best 😊

  13. An excellent post from Steve, Jennie. He is, indeed, very innovative.

  14. L. Marie says:

    Love this! What a fun game! And who knows–perhaps the children will be inspired to invent something!

  15. I too was educated by Steve today lol Jennie.. Just a wonderful man, and I am sure those children love him to bits.. 😀 ❤
    Thank you for sharing Jennie..

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Wonderful! Thank you, Jennie!

  17. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post from Jennie!

  18. sjhigbee says:

    What a wonderful chap! I think anyone who helps children cross the road to get to school are special folk, anyway…

  19. It’s a great life, being around kids, Steve, as I know form 42 years’experience. One typo alert- Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1438. He built upon the technology of movable type that was developed in the court of Korea’s King Sejong, in the 1420s.

  20. Thank you so much Jennie! Its every time very motivating, even if i am not a teacher! Have a beautiful weekend! Michael

  21. I had a comment here but I’m so distracted lately that it’s gone. I love that you and Steve both go above and beyond to engage these youngsters at different ages in a way that challenges all of you. You both learn and the children learn while each are teaching. It’s the best way. I love his blogs about how the young people respond to his raising of the bar. Your charges get so excited about learning that it will carry them a lifetime. Perfect all the way around.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. Steve finds amazing ways to engage the children, and at the crack of dawn! When the child becomes excited, the teacher had done a good job. As you said, those are the moments that will carry them a lifetime.

  22. dgkaye says:

    I’d say the children at your school are very lucky to have leaders like you and Steve 🙂 x

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