Why do humans build tall structures?

A symbol of growth in China and Southeast Asia in the early 21st century is the proliferation of skyscrapers. Since the Lincoln Cathedral surpassed the Pyramids of Egypt in 1300 CE, all of the tallest buildings in the world were in Europe and North America. Then, in 1998, the Petronas Towers opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Today the five tallest buildings are in Asia (One World Trade Center in New York City is #6). Asian skyscrapers are signs of the integration of those countries into the world economic system that itself was the result of the Industrial Revolution in 19th century Western societies. This inquiry unit explores the connections between industrialization, urbanization, and skyscrapers, and how it was that skyscrapers were built. Students analyze building materials and related technologies as well as the connections between the physical structures and the ideas of power and prestige that inspired them.

IEEE REACH creates free units of study, following the Inquiry Design Model, that engage your students in an exploration of the interaction of technology and history. Our C3 units span the spectrum of history from Athenian triremes to military drones, all while honing historical thinking skills like document analysis and persuasive writing. Every unit is the product of professional research by historians of engineering and technology adapted for high school students by experienced educators – and everything we offer is free to teachers and their students!

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