In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about simple machines. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Simple Machines topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching Simple Machines
Have small groups or pairs create ramps using a book and building blocks. Then give each group a mini-car, cylinder, or other object with wheels or a round shape. Have your students roll different objects down the ramp and measure the distance they traveled. Then have them change the steepness of the ramp by adding or taking away blocks. Students can do the activity again and then see how the traveled distance changes. Have groups share their results with the class.
Pulley Message System
Have small groups make their own pulley. Take two small spools of thread and put a pencil through the center. Then tie the ends of a length of string together to create a loop. Have two students hold the pencils and spools and spin them slowly to create a pulley system. Then have another student write a message and attach it to the thread using a paper clip. Use the pulley to pass the message from one person to the other.
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching Simple Machines
Simple Machine Walk
Together with your child, take a walk around your neighborhood. Have your child carry a notebook or a camera. Have him or her identify different simple machines or observe machines or tools that use different simple machines. Have your child take pictures of it or draw a picture of it to make a catalog. As a math connection, have your child create a tally chart to keep track of the number of different simple machines he or she sees on the walk. Which simple machine is most commonly used? When you return home, look around for any simple machines you and your child use in the house. Could you do without them? How would you manage?
Give a Lift
Tape a pencil to a table. Then place a ruler on top of the pencil to create a lever. Place an object on one end of the ruler and press down on the other end to lift the object up. Try using objects of different weights. What happens? Is it easier or harder to lift heavier objects? Then have your child move the ruler so that the fulcrum is closer or farther away from the load. When does it become easier or harder to lift the load? Does the load ever become too heavy for the lever, and if so, where is the fulcrum?