Last week our family experienced another STEM storytime at the Commerce Community Library. This time we were learning about simple machines, I love how these evenings always tie in literature, hands on exploration, and a take home activity. At first our librarian discussed what simple machines are, she defined them as “something that makes work easier.” We learned there are 6 types of simple machines: pulley, lever, wheel and axle, screw, wedge and inclined plane. We spent the evening concentrating on 4 of them: inclined plane, wheel and axle, lever, and pulley.
Here is a sampling of some of the great books available about simple machines:
After reading about inclined planes, levers, wheel and axles and pulleys we were free to experiment and try out these simple machines.
Here are the directions for our experiments with inclined planes.
There was a basket with a sturdy handle, filled with books. First the children tried to lift the basket, then they pulled it up the ramp. The ramp was simply a board with blocks stacked under one end.
The children agreed it was easier to pull the basket up the ramp than lift it.
Next they made the ramp more steep by adding more blocks under the end.
Then they tried to pull it up the ramp that was more steep.
There was also a sign showing where we might see inclined planes in daily life.
Next we experimented with wheels and axles.
This was such a simple idea and it worked very well. The kids tried to push the heavy container, then we lined up dowels and set the container on top of them – it rolled great!
Then we put the container on a big cart and talked about how the wheels on the cart were bigger than the dowels – the kids loved pushing the cart!
Here are examples of wheels and axles:
Our next experiment was with levers.
First the children put a large plastic dinosaur on one end of the board, and stacked bean bags on the opposite side.
Then they tried out a tiny dinosaur
Later we moved the board so the stack of blocks (fulcrum) was close to one end of the board. We saw how it made it much harder to lift the dinosaurs.
Here are examples of levers:
Our final machine was a pulley.
The pulley we used was a simple wheel attached to a wire coat hanger, hung from the hinge of a door.
The children filled the pumpkin buckets with different materials and experimented with lifting them using the pulley. The hangers were taped to the door hinge so it wouldn’t come off with the force of pulling.
My son, the engineer, told me that a pulley system really doesn’t make it easier to lift weight unless there are at least 2 pulleys. But I noticed that the children could lift the weight much higher using this one pulley than they could have lifted it without the pulley and rope.
Here are examples of pulleys:
Warning! If you take an engineer with you (like my son), be prepared to hear the intricacies of how these systems are really supposed to work. These activities did a great job demonstrating how simple machines are used to make work easier! It was another fun evening at the library!
The children were given this take home activity. These pictures would be great for sorting, or you could even make a Go Fish type of game by trying to collect a set of pictures of levers, or a set of pulleys, etc.
Now it’s fun for me to point out examples of these simple machines to my grandchildren when we are out and about! If I were still in a classroom I would try to take some photographs of things around school that use show these simple machines in action!