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Simple Machines Don’t Have to Be Boring.

Making Simple Machines from Household Items
I have a love-hate relationship with simple machines.  I have taught this concept for almost 15 years and I have never been happy with the way I have presented it…. until now. Have you ever been doing something the same way for so long that is almost impossible to break the rut?  This was one of those things for me.
I would give the students the description and show them a few examples and off we would go.  I never felt like there was an AHA moment.  If you are an educator those are the water you are looking for after the drought,  am I right?  I knew I needed to do something, but I just wasn’t figuring it out.  Until now.

Figuring out my problem.

I have a problem with jumping from memorization to application too quickly.  That has definitely been the problem here.  I would show them simple machines and then say let’s build a Rube Goldberg machine or something else.

I was encouraged by education theory to leave it totally open ended, but without a little more direction leading up to it… we were all frustrated.  Yet again, missing the AHA moment that every instructor wants their learners to have.

If you have taken any education courses,  scaffolding is a buzz word.   But it is a buzz word for good reason and it is not emphasized enough in practice.   We O.K. I sometimes struggle with understanding how much and how to scaffold the information and still leave the room for the AHA. Please tell me I am not the only one with the struggle?  Please?


That’s when I took a step back and considered exploring everyday items.  Making simple machines out of household items is a perfect way to help kids connect simple machines to their own background knowledge, but it needs to be hands-on.

My simple machine fix.


Simple Machine Projects for Kids

My plan for simple machines.  The right mix of learning and exploration. There are six basic simple machines. These lessons get kids hands-on with simple machines immediately. 

Part 1

Get the kids involved.  There are six stations with activities for the kids to do at each station.  They are actually using simple machines at these stations.  Simple Machine Projects for Kids

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We did the stations first after a brief introduction and reminder about lab safety.    I did the stations with my kids, but that would depend on your kids’ background knowledge and level of independence (and ability to work together). 
The kids got to experiment with the simple machines.  In some of the stations, the kids were asked to make design decisions. For example, they got to move the fulcrum, load, and effort at the lever station.  I got the AHA moment(s) I was looking for.
simple machines printable
We made mini-books to reinforce what they learned at the stations.  Each mini-book has a space for notes/drawings, description sheet, and an illustrated cover.

Part 2

Guided project where the kids will build a contraption using simple machines.  This will be a Rube Goldberg style contraption with more guidance.


Part 3


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One Comment

  1. Angela Hedman says:

    This is excellent material! Thank you for sharing.

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