We are in Week 2 of The Science Celebration. I am feeling the energy in the emails I am receiving and in the Facebook group so please continue to let me know how you are using these lessons. This week’s theme is physical science. Physical science includes concepts from branches of chemistry and physics.
I saw some of you drop your shoulders, and you in the back, I saw you stick out your tongue 😉 First of all, physical science doesn’t have to be intimidating so take a deep breath. This week is going to focus on lessons that are accessible and adaptable for multiple ages (and educators).
When possible, I try to provide hands-on experiments. If that isn’t possible or the process is difficult to visualize, my goal is to create a hands-on activity that will illustrate the concept and reinforce the learning. This week it is a hands-on STEM challenge.
In what feels like a previous life, I taught middle school physical science. The highlight of the year was simple machines and Rube Goldberg. Simple machines are a lesson that seems to get taught over and over, but students always act like they have never heard of it. A few other examples are mitosis and organelles, but I digress.
This particular lesson was always something students would look forward to. On the day of the announcement, I would look into a room of 30 eighth graders and there would be legs bouncing, kids would be learning forward, and more than once there would be actual applause when the challenge was announced. The build up was what helped to make the challenge a success. What was I asking them to do? Make a complicated contraption that will do a simple thing, Rube Goldberg Style.
Teach a Concept Before Application
If you don’t know who Rube Goldberg is, he is primarily known as a cartoonist and inventor. Typically Rube Goldberg style competitions are held in schools to coincide with the simple machines lesson.
We completed two sets of lessons on simple machines. Why two? I wasn’t happy with my first set. My kids were not feeling excited, so I decided to come in with a different approach. Once I decided to present simple machines in action, my kids were excited and ready to move to phase two. You can read all about that adventure here and grab the download.
After the kids get the basic ideas, it is time to move into application. That is where brainstorming simple machines project ideas for kids comes in.
STEM Challenge Using Simple Machines
I decided that a stem challenge was a great combination for this material. It lets them apply what they have learned about simple machines, use creative problem solving to come up with their simple machines project ideas and use engineering skill in the design and build process. These are Rube Goldberg inspired complicated contraptions. The contraption’s purpose was to move a car forward. When creating this type of STEM challenge (and really most STEM challenges) you provide parameters and not procedure.
The parameters that I created:
- 3 simple machines (2 different ones)
- a person cannot touch the component that touches the car
You can add on additional criteria for judging:
- fastest speed (wouldn’t suggest)
- repeatable results
These are all great options to evaluate the machines. Enter your email address below and I’ll send a copy of my complicated contraption form.
Looking for more STEM ideas?
Grab the Science Celebration 2017 Yearbook. Includes this project and the Simple Machine downloads to teach the concepts.
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