The History of The Eiffel Tower for Kids

Imagine yourself standing at the top of a tall building, one that is the most famous building in the world.  You look out on all sides and can see the whole city around you.  There are old fashioned buildings and cars.  People are walking and talking together.  Some people are riding bikes and some ride on boats that are floating along on the river below you.  The boats disappear for a second as they cross beneath below you.  But they reappear again and cruise slowly along their way.  You are in Paris and the building you are visiting is the Eiffel Tower. 

There are many important and famous buildings in the world but one of the most famous, loved by people everywhere is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You have probably heard of the Eiffel Tower before, but have you ever wondered how it was made? Or why? 

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 and is now the most recognizable building in the world.  Can you imagine what it would have taken to build something like this in the old days?  When it was first built, many local people in Paris were not sure that they would like it.  They doubted that it would be a good building and some did not want it to be built in their city. 

The idea for the Eiffel Tower came about as part of the planning for the World’s Fair in 1889.  Paris was the host of the World’s Fair that year to mark the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution.  The City of Paris wanted to host a memorable event and wow the crowds that would come there.  Memorable means something worth remembering because it is special.

The City asked for designers and artists to create plans for a monument for the city to mark the event.  A monument is a statue, building, or other structure that is meant to be a symbol for something. In this case, it was meant to be a symbol marking the World Fair.  More than 100 artists submitted plans for the monument.  It was going to be built on a famous street called the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris.  It was going to be the entrance to the fair when it started.

The winning company was a consulting and construction firm owned by an architect named Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. An architect is a person who designs buildings and often oversees their construction.

While Mr. Eiffel often receives credit for designing the Eiffel Tower, it was actually one of his employees, an engineer named Maurice Koechlin, who came up with the idea. The design idea came to him because a few years before that, the two men had bought the metal and he had been trying to find a project they could use it for.

The final design for the Eiffel Tower required more than 18,000 pieces iron and 2.5 million rivets. Rivets are short metal pins used for holding together two plates of metal. Several hundred workers spent two years putting together the frame of the tower.  When it was finished it was almost 1,000 feet high and was the tallest structure in the world at the time. It weighs around 10,000 tonnes!

At the time of the World’s Fair, the tower was lit up by hundreds of game lamps and a beacon sent out beams of red, white and blue. Searchlights from the tower illuminated different parts of the fair. The start and end of the fair each day was announced by a cannon explosion from the top. 

At the top the set up a post office where visitors to the fair could send postcards to friends and family. Many famous people visited the Eiffel Tower during the World’s Fair. These included the Prince of Wales, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison, an engineer himself was particularly impressed with the tower. 

There were also millions of regular people who visited the Eiffel Tower during the World’s Fair and afterwards. Many were very impressed with it, but some were not.  Some people who lived in Paris thought that it changed the way the city looked and thought it was ugly.

At first, only the Eiffel Tower’s second-floor platform was open to the public.  Today, all the levels are open and two of them even have restaurants.  The first two levels can be accessed by stairs, but the top, third level, requires taking an elevator to get to.

When the Eiffel Tower was originally built, it was meant to be a temporary building for the World’s Fair that would be torn down later.  However, the city realized that it could be used as a radio tower and so they decided to keep it.  Many years later, the Eiffel Tower was used to intercept enemy radio communications during the first world war. 

Throughout the years, the Eiffel Tower has been used for many important ceremonies and events.  It has also appeared in many, many movies.  It has become such a popular building that there are now more than 30 structures around the world that are copies of the Eiffel Tower design, including one in Las Vegas.

In 1986, the Eiffel Tower was renovated.  Renovated means to restore something so that it looks nice.  It is now repainted every seven years to keep it looking fresh.  Every time it is repainted, it uses 50 tonnes of paint!.  

Every year more than 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower.  It is the most frequently visited structure in the world. The French name for the Eiffel Tower is “La Tour Eiffel”, it also has the nickname “La dame de fer” which means the iron lady.

There are more than 500 people who work at the Eiffel Tower.  They work in its restaurants and maintaining its safety and security.  There are people who clean it and there are people that run the elevator that takes visitors to the top.

At the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can look out and see the beautiful view of Paris.  People from all over the world come not only to look at the Eiffel Tower, but also to ride to the top and see the beautiful city of Paris, which is also called the City of Lights.

Have you ever been to the Eiffel Tower?  Would you like to visit it one day?  If you want to visit somewhere like this, keep the vision of it in your mind.  There are many people who have dreamed of visiting the Eiffel Tower with someone they love or on their own and have made it happen by saving money and making plans to visit.  Can you picture yourself standing on the top of the tower and looking out on the beautiful view?  Hopefully you will get a chance to visit one day.

The History of the Great Wall of China for Kids

Imagine you are walking along a path in the forest.  Around you are beautiful mountains covered with lush green trees.  You see tall bamboo trees and birds in the sky. Nearby is a small mountain village where families are cooking dinner and playing in common areas.  As you walk further along the path towards the mountain range, you suddenly look up and see a gigantic stone wall cutting through the forest. You place your hands on it and look up. It is incredibly high. When you look left and right you see that it stretches in both directions as far as your eye can see.  You are at one of the most famous structures in the world: the Great Wall of China! 

The Great Wall of China was built over 2,000 years ago and runs more than 13,000 miles across northern China.  But why was this wall built?  And how has it lasted so long?

The Great Wall of China was constructed by Emperor Chin Shi Huang in the 3rd century B.C.  Well actually, parts of the wall were built earlier than that and it is doubtful that Emperor Chin did any of the actual construction work himself.  

Emperor Chin united a number of different independent states in China and was the first emperor to unite all of these different communities together as one Chinese country.  This happened around 220 B.C.  Before that, there were many different kingdoms throughout China and different groups of people lived on their own.  The land that the Chinese people lived on was very fertile. Fertile means the land is good for growing lots of food. Over time, the people that lived in the area started to farm and grow crops.  As more people farmed the land, they needed to create systems of order and government to help manage the land and how it was used.  

At this time, Chinese people developed and irrigated fields and grew crops near the Yellow River valley. Farming large areas of land required people to work together and form a government to work the land peacefully.  That is why the Chinese formed one empire and also built walls around them to protect their communities against attacks by the nomads.  Nomads means someone who doesn’t live in one place but moves from place to place. The nomads didn’t farm, but instead moved around and herded animals. They used the food from these animals to survive. They also hunted instead of staying in one place and farming. 

Since the nomads needed to move with the animals, they had a completely different type of society and order. They needed to hunt animals or trade for them.  This led to the nomads trading with the Chinese or in many cases attacking them. 

The nomadic tribes often came into contact with the Chinese farmers.  Sometimes it was friendly and they would trade with each other.  But often, they did not get along.  The nomadic people wanted to use the farmland to hunt and move around, but the farm people wanted more land to farm. This led to battles between the farmers and the nomads.  The farming kingdoms also often fought each other for control of different territories. This is why this period of history in China is known as the “Warring States Period.”

To help avoid attacks, many of the kingdoms built walls to defend themselves.  The walls were made out of rocks and compacted dirt that was tamped very tightly to form the structure.  These walls were shorter versions of the Great Wall of China that was later built.  They stretched between the border of different regions and often included towers, block houses for soldiers and beacons to send smoke signals.

When Emperor Chin became emperor, he wanted to put a stop to the fighting between different farming kingdoms.  He declared that all of these kingdoms were now part of one country called China.  But the nomadic people that lived outside the area didn’t care about this.  They continued to attack the farming areas. 

To help stop these attacks and to continue to unite the new country, the Emperor ordered that the walls between different states be removed and that the shorter walls that existed along the northern border of China be joined together to form one long wall.  Emperor Qin thought that this would also help protect them against attacks from the north where China’s biggest enemy lived — Mongolia. The Mongolians were fierce fighters and very dangerous to the Chinese.

The project of building the Great Wall was a huge task requiring a lot of work.  Emperor Qin ordered his army to work on the wall, so much of it was constructed by soldiers.  But they needed even more workers to get the job done.  So Emperor Qin ordered that prisoners work on the wall as well.  This is called “forced labour,” which is when someone is forced to do a job without getting paid. It was hard work and estimated that around 400,000 workers died while building the wall.  

Conditions were probably very difficult due to the long stretches of mountains and desert where the Wall was built.  Today, there are some areas of the Great Wall where no one lives because the conditions are so difficult and there are some parts where the winters are so cold that no one goes there in the winter.  Can you imagine having to work on building a large wall in those conditions?

Because much of the wall is built with rammed earth, most of the materials that they used to build the wall could be found right where they were building.  However, some additional supplies and workers had to travel a far way to get to the wall. This made construction even more difficult. Sometimes the young men that were forced to build the wall had to haul boats loaded with baggage upstream in rivers in order to bring food to the workers.  The work was so hard that many people tried to escape and sneak away back to the city or to their hometowns.  Many individuals died in the wilderness trying to escape because the conditions were hard to survive and the journey home was so long. 

Eventually, people living in the newly united China started to revolt against the Qin dynasty.  To revolt means to fight against and overthrow.  Emperor Qin was a strict ruler and not everyone agreed with his rules. As Emperor Qin lost the support of the Chinese people over time, there were less and less soldiers that were willing to go out to work on the wall.  They stopped listening to his orders and as a result, the construction of the wall slowed down. 

Later Chinese rulers carried on the construction and eventually the wall was finished.  This included the Han, Sui, Northern, Jin and Ming Dynasties.  Each repaired, rebuilt or expanded the wall.  During the Ming Dynasty, major rebuilding work took place and sections of the wall that were originally built with dirt were replaced with bricks and stone instead.  These new materials helped the wall to last longer in good shape. 

One of the first mentions of a wall built against northern invaders is found in a poem, dated seventh century BC.  It is recorded in the ancient Chinese book of Classic Poetry. 

In 221 BC, when Qin Shi Huang united the Chinese states, the walls were known as “Changcheng” which literally means “long walls”.  The walls were mostly constructed of tamped earth, which some parts built with stones. Where natural barriers, like ravines and rivers worked enough for defence, the walls were erected sparingly.  Often in addition to the wall, defensive systems like garrisons and beacon towers were built inside the wall and watchtowers on the outside at regular intervals. 

Unfortunately the Great Wall never totally prevented invaders from coming into China.  It was a useful way to stop raids.  But at several points throughout its history the Great Wall failed to stop enemies.  This included in 1644 when the Manchu Qing marched through the gates of Shanhai Pass and replaced the Ming dynasty as the new rulers of China.  But the Great Wall came to be seen as a symbol of the ongoing power and strength of the Chinese civilization. 

Eventually the Chinese were forced to move back from the northern part of China when the Mongolian people attacked in the north and conquered and took control of China.  The Mongols were led by Genghis Khan, a famous, violent leader. The Mongols didn’t need the Great Wall as much as the Chinese had in the past, but they assigned soldiers to man the wall in order to protect merchants and travelers travelling along the Silk Road trade routes. 

Eventually the Ming Dynasty took control of the area again.  During the Ming Dynasty, the Ming rules were very strong leaders and Chinese culture grew stronger. They built a lot of additional parts of the Great Wall including bridgets, temples and pagodas.  Pagodas are like western gazebos, or covered areas that people can sit under.

Between the 18th and 20th centuries, the Great Wall became the most common symbol of China for the Western world. Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive building feats in human history. In 1987, UNESCO, an international heritage organization, designated the Great Wall a World Heritage site.  At the time, it was the only man-made structure that could be visible from space!

In modern times, thousands of tourists visit the Great Wall of China.  The most popular part of the wall and the most famous is called Badaling.  It runs 43 miles northwest of Beijing.  Would you like to see the Great Wall of China one day?  If you do, think of all of the people that worked to build and maintain the wall throughout time.  Walking along the Great Wall of China, you will surely be walking along part of history!

Quiz

  1. When was the Great Wall of China built? Over 2,000 years ago. 
  2. How long does the wall run? More than 13,000 miles across northern China
  3. Why was this wall built?  To unify the new Chinese state and keep out northern invaders.
  4. Which emperor ordered the unified construction of the northern wall? Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the 3rd century B.C.  
  5. What is the difference between farmers and nomadic people?  Farmers stay largely in one place and grow their food; Nomadic people hunt animals and move with them as they move.
  6. Who was the biggest threat to the new Chinese kingdom when it was unified?  The Mongolian people to the north.
  7. What was the Great Wall originally made of? Rammed earth and stones.
  8. Who was the leader of the Mongolian people when they attacked and conquered China?  Genghis Khan
  9. Can the Great Wall be seen from space? Yes!
  10. What is the most famous stretch of the Great Wall that runs northwest of Beijing called? Badaling

Activities

  1. Print a map of Asia and color the area of China in red. Color the area of Mongolia north of China purple.   
  2. On your map, draw a line where you think the Great Wall of China runs.  Now look up a picture on the internet.  See how close you were with your guess. 
  3. Draw a picture of the Great Wall close up.  Include a watch tower or a pagoda.  What else could you add to help fortify, or strengthen, your defence of the wall?
  4. Tea – Legend has it that around 2737 B.C., a Chinese ruler was sitting in his garden.  He had a pot of drinking water at his elbow.  A leaf fell from a nearby tree and drifted into the pot of water.  This inspired the creation of tea!  Tea is a very popular drink in China. Together with an adult, make a pot of tea for your family.  You will need boiling water, tea leaves, a teapot and strainer.  Try some different flavors of tea.  What is your favorite?  Why do you think tea helped keep Chinese people and other tea drinkers healthy throughout history? [answer: boiling water is good for hygiene, killing bacteria]
  5. Food – In ancient China, people ate rice, soybeans, cucumbers, pork and chicken.  Look up a recipe for a stir-fry using some of these ingredients.  Together with a parent, try cooking a traditional Chinese meal for your family.