Simple Machines Inventions

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Students plan and design a new tool or machine that can accomplish a job or make a work easier using only the supplies provided to them.

Big Idea

Students will solve real world problems by thinking and acting like engineers!


15 minutes

Students are asked to sit at their seats for instructions on the science activity of inventing their own simple tool or machine.

On each table, there is a box of various different items.  These items can be changed.  It is not necessary to use exactly the same items I have chosen. I use the plastic dish pans that can be purchased at big box stores for just a few dollars each.  These come in handy for many projects throughout the year.

I explain to students "that within the box, there are a whole bunch of things that they will be able to use to build or construct and invent something of their own that will solve a problem or make a job easier for them".

The students are instructed not to touch the materials until directions have been completed. The reason for this is to keep their attention.  Depending on your class, you may choose to wait to put the boxes on the tables if you think that paying attention to directions will be difficult.

I have also put paper and chart paper on each table.

I then explain to the students that "before they can build or construct anything, they must first come up with a plan".  I make it very clear that scientists do not do experiments or build things without first planning out what they want to accomplish.



Group Work

45 minutes

Since there are many steps to this process, I give the students the instructions one step at a time and then give them time to work.  For kindergarten students and a class that contains ELL students and students with special needs, giving them this project in smaller chunks is helpful for their success.

Step 1:

I ask students to begin talking with their table group to figure out a problem they want to solve with a new tool or a job they want to make easier with a new tool.  I tell students that by the end of 15 minutes, they all must agree on something.

I then start a visual timer on the Smartboard for 15 minutes and tell students they may begin their discussions.

I like to use this egg timer because the visual timer work well for young students.

While the students are working on this, I walk around the room to help facilitate their discussions.  I do not intervene unless I see that a table group is having a hard time with this.

At the end of the 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, I ask students to stop, look and listen.

I have the groups report out on what they have decided on and I record these for my own purposes.  I keep notes of my own so that I can refer back to them as needed.

Step 2:

I explain to the students that when I say "Go" they will have 10 minutes to go through the box of supplies to look and see what they will be able to use in their design.  I also let them know that they are not to start building anything yet. Students will be eager to get started so it is important to keep reminding them of your expectations.

I set the visual timer again and tell students to begin.

At the end of the 10 minutes, I ask students to stop, look and listen.

Step 3:

At this time, I explain to students that they will design a new tool, using the items in the box and only what is in the box.  To design the tool, they must first draw a model of their tool on paper.  The model should look like what they want the end product to look like.  The parts of their new tool should be labeled so that others could read their model and know what the parts will do.

I set the visual timer for 20 minutes.  I tell students to make sure that all of the students are participating.

While the students are working on this part of the project, I walk around the room and help and guide as needed.  If I see a group that is struggling, I ask guiding questions to help get them started.

At the end of 20 minutes, I check to see if groups need more time.  If they do, we will continue until needed.

If groups are done, I collect their chart paper/paper with their models and save them for the following day.


10 minutes

In closing, I explain to students that the next day they will be working with their model to actually create their new tool with the items in the box.

This will bring on a great deal of excitement.  Students love hands on activities so this peaks their interest.

I ask each table group (in my class there are 4), to share with the rest of the group the job that they decided they will invent a tool for.  I give each group a few minutes to share out and then the supplies and materials are stored on the back counter until the next day.  Each poster is rolled up and stored with the box of supplies for each table.