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Simple Machines and Force: The Investigation

Sunday, March 15, 2015

All year, ever since the beginning, I noticed that the students enjoyed creating things such as inclined planes, wheel and axels, and levers in the forms of ramps, catapults and creatve vehicles.

I told them these were called simple machines and that I had noticed they were very interested in them! When I asked if they would like to dig deeper and inquire about simple machines, they were very excited!  We already have a good supply of materials for engineering, but I set out some different materials for them to explore.

They were very excited to explore and see what they noticed! 

I cannot tell you how many times these kids failed, problem solved, failed again, collaborated, failed and persisted as they explored ways to create and use simple machines! They truly learned to look at failure as a positive learning experience in order to help them figure out why something didn't work and how they could change it and try again! Look at the excitement at the end of the video below of the children when one of their friends was finally successful after many design changes!

During an investigation of Inclined planes we created a challenge. They had to create an inclined plane that would roll the cylinder right to the end of the ribbon.  They observed each other and used what they noticed to adjust the board and see if they could do it. 

Look at how excited they got when a friend finally did it!  They noticed that the cylinder went faster or slower depending on the angle of the inclined plane! 

This brought up a question. We have been discussing the terms "effort," "force" and "load."  They learned that simple machines helped us use less effort. They learned effort was force and there were two kinds of force: push and pull...but no one pushed or pulled the cylinder down the ramp! This brought up the discussion of gravity being a force that pulls! They applied this knowledge and commented often about it as they created and played with lego and geoboard marble mazes. 

They also explored the force of gravity and inclined planes by creating marble paintings and drip paintings! I love combining art and science! 

They developed an interest in Rube Goldburg Machines! They noticed when observing videos that sometimes the balls went up ramps and wondered how since they felt gravity wouldn't allow that! They explored this concept and took it as a challenge. They created new ramps to figure it out and found out that the force of push could be stronger than the pulling force of gravity on the ball. 

They tried creating Rube Goldburg Machines. These machines are a chain of events that do something for you.  They really had to problem solve to make these work! The video below shows one one of many that were created.  It was supposed to knock over the blocks at the end, but she still had some problem solving to do!

The amount of dedication, problem solving, persistence, collaboration, and grit that these kids have shown during this inquiry has amazed me!  These kids have these 21st Century Skills and are using them constantly!  

The kids have picked a simple machine to become an expert in and are hunting for simple machines around our school. Their next steps are to organize their data  and then create their simple machine! We are hoping to do an open house or presentation to show our simple machines to other classes and parents, but with Spring Break and conferences coming up I know that will be difficult! We will try our best!

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