The first Morse code message was sent on May 24, 1844, making this a great day to introduce your students to Morse code!

In a demonstration that took place before members of the United States Congress, Morse code creator Samuel F.B. Morse sent the first telegraphed message using a system of dots and dashes to represent various sounds and letters.

Morse code

SOS in Morse Code

What is Morse code?

In Morse code, dots represent short signals known as ‘dits’ and dashes represent long signals called ‘dahs.’ Each letter in the English language is represented by a sequence of dits and dahs, and the interval of time between signals illustrates a pause between letters or words.

Why is Morse code important?

The invention of Morse code was more significant than many students may realize. It was responsible for ushering in a new era of communication technology. For the first time in history, a message system existed that was faster than any human means of transport. Instead of waiting weeks for a letter or a piece of important news, now information could be relayed almost instantly through a telegraph line.

How to bring Morse code into your classroom

National Morse Code Day is celebrated every year on Samuel Morse’s April 27 birthday (he turned 244 in 2016), but May 24 marks the anniversary of that first message. Both days present an opportunity for students to learn more about the history of the technology and how Morse code works. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Morse code in the classroom:

  • Morse code

    Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

    Have students try out their translation skills. If they need a little help, Morse code translator apps exist for both Android and iOS. Give them a printout of the Morse code alphabet, available here.

  • Let students listen to a few Morse code transmissions. The National Association For Amateur Radio releases a schedule of transmissions and the radio frequencies where they can be heard for practice purposes.
  • Plan a Morse code scavenger hunt. To find the clues, students have to interpret encoded messages using their printouts as reference sheets. Morse code uses simpler sequences for more common letters, so you could start out the hunt with common, easier words and build up to more complex sentences.
  • If you’re up for making something ambitious, try building a simple Morse code transmitter. The equipment needed for the project is both relatively easy to find and inexpensive. The finished product will be able to receive and relay Morse code messages. Learn more about setting up a permanent Makerspace in your classroom here.

If you enjoy celebrating offbeat, educational holidays in the classroom, there’s always Pi Day and World Maths Day to look forward to as well! Looking for more student-centered activities to try in your classroom? Check out our free guide to project-based learning!

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