Big History, Local Schools, and the Archimedes Screw overview image

Big History, Local Schools, and the Archimedes Screw

  • Post Date5/13/2016
  • AuthorRegina Cassidy
  • Reading Time2 minute read

The Spurlock Museum continues to provide outreach to local middle schools in the form of an eight-part program named An Artifact Speaks based on the standard ancient cultures curriculum and created by Kim Sheahan, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Education, and Zach Cain, 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Champaign's Edison Middle School. This year, several middle school teachers in the area have adopted a new social studies curriculum called Big History. Big History attempts to weave together science and history cross-culturally to present a dynamic picture of the entire Earth and humankind.

  • Plastic model of archimedes screw transporting water

Collaborating with these teachers to complement Big History instruction, Kim Sheahan and Education Research Associate Gina Cassidy have begun developing a series of theme-based outreach programs. The first two units developed are "Gold" and "Water." With Museum Guild funds, the Education Department has purchased a model of an Archimedes Screw to use as a teaching artifact for our "Water" unit. This invention is a water pump designed for irrigation. Invented in the third century BCE, the Archimedes Screw is still used today, including at the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant in Los Angeles.


Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 BCE) was a famed mathematician and physicist, younger cousin of King Hiero, whose main occupation was solving problems for the King, defense-related and otherwise. Many people are familiar with the story of Archimedes jumping naked from a tub, shouting "Eureka!" when he solved the problem of the King’s crown by employing the formula D = M/V (density is equal to mass over volume). Archimedes is also credited with inventing the catapult, the science of hydrostatics, and significantly improving levers and pulley systems.