How Does It Roll? or Apprentice Elves Learn About Moving Parts

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SWBAT identify the components, the axle and wheel which allow the vehicle to roll.

Big Idea

Research and development teams take apart toy vehicles to discover how the parts are put together and the key components needed to make it roll.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

In this lesson students take apart toy vehicles to discover the parts necessary to make it roll and how these parts are connected to make up the 'rolling system'.

NGSS Standards

K-2-ETS1-2.     Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

Students make observations and make a diagram to learn what parts are needed to make a toy vehicle roll and how these parts are connected.


Students disassemble toy vehicles to learn how the parts are connected so that the vehicle can roll and in the process explore the concept that a variety of toy vehicles can be made with similar parts.

Science Practices

- Developing and Using Models (SP 2)

Students take apart toy vehicles to learn which parts are necessary to make it roll and how these parts are connected. Then they demonstrate what they have learned by creating diagrams.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Structure and Function (XC 6)

Students observe which structures support the ability for toy vehicles to roll.

Lesson Preparation

Select toy vehicles that students can disassemble and assemble; 1 toy vehicle / team

Copy the Toy Vehicle Diagram lab form for each student

Prepare the vocabulary words on tag board or Smartboard

Divide class into 'Research and Development' teams

Below are 2 sites where toy vehicles can be purchased.

I reached out to my students' families for donations so that we could have 4 sets to use with the 2nd grades classes. (Lakeshore has a less expensive version, but no carrying case or manual screwdriver)

If you choose to use this set, please note that the motorcycle toy has a different rolling system. Some teams may need scaffolding to understand how the parts help it roll.

I purchased one a Mondari toy vehicle for students who would like to explore toy vehicle design in more depth.


Question for the Day

10 minutes

Science starts with a question, usually written on the board and the students sitting on the rug. Students read and discuss the question. This allows time for students to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. 

I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: What parts are needed so that a toy vehicle can roll?

Students read the question, then turn to their should partner to discuss. When students indicate that they completed sharing their ideas by turning to face me, I call on students to share what their neighbor said.

Encouraging students to restate what their partner says promotes active listening and validates the partner.

I write the student responses on the board.

This informal assessment gives me an idea of what students may already know about a wheel and axle and how these may be attached to the vehicle body.

"In the last lesson you explored what could help a vehicle roll straight and far. Today you will disassemble a vehicle to discover the parts that are necessary to help a it roll and how these parts are attached to the vehicle. After you make a diagram of the parts that help it roll, you will put it back together."

"Since you will be taking apart the vehicle and making diagrams, it will be helpful for you to use the specific language when teams share their discoveries."

I project the following vocabulary and definitions on the board:

wheel - disc that rolls

axle - rod connected to the wheel

axle tube - something that the axle can spin in

chassis - frame that holds the axles and/or bearings

"When you disassemble the toy vehicle, it will be your team's job to identify the parts that you think best match the definitions above."

"Your vehicle may have all these parts, some of these parts, this will be up to your research and development team to discover and identify on your vehicle."

The teams will have one of three different vehicles to disassemble and diagram.

I intentionally keep the vocabulary brief as I want the students to disassemble the vehicles to become familiar how these parts are related to the system. I will review these terms more in depth in the next lesson.

"O.K., please return to your desk and I will pass out the lab form that you will use to diagram your observations."

Vehicle Diagram

5 minutes

"Each team will disassemble a vehicle to determine which of these parts are used in the vehicle and how the parts help the vehicle roll." I point to the vocabulary words projected on the board.

"Then each of you will diagram the parts of the vehicle that help it roll and how they are attached."

I pass out the lab form and model how to construct a diagram.

To help build a schema for the parts discussed on the vocabulary list, I project a simple vehicle that has the axle attached to the chassis.

"Please turn to your neighbor and discuss which parts from the word bank seem to be on the vehicle."

Next I disassemble the vehicle, sketch and with the students' input, label the vehicle. I prompt students to share any details they see on the the parts that may help it do its job. For each label I ask what clues helped them decide the label for the vehicle part. 

Finally, I ask how the parts are connected and what they are connected to. I include this on my diagram.

This last step should be emphasized. Consider using arrows to model how each piece is connected to the next one. 


Vehicle Disassembly

50 minutes

"Are you ready to see the vehicle you will disassemble? Does it look like mine? How is it different and the same? Please discuss with your table partner.

"You will be working in research and development teams of 2. After, I pass out the vehicles. You will have 5 -10 minutes to explore how the vehicle rolls and the parts you can see that help it roll.

I project the teams on the board and students move to their assigned to team table.

After teams have had a chance to explore their vehicle, I signal for student's attention.

"Each 'Research and Development' Team, will disassemble and diagram the parts of the vehicle that help it roll. What are the parts you will be looking for?"

"Right, the wheels, axle, axle tube and the chassis. This means there will be at least 4 labeled parts on your vehicle diagram."

"When you diagram the chassis, the most important part to label is how the rolling parts are connected to the rest of the vehicle."

"Remember to work carefully and slowly so that you can identify the vehicle parts, the properties of the parts, such as the shape, and how the parts are attached. The properties will give you clues as to the part's purpose and how it is attached. Each person is responsible for making their own diagram."

"You may discover your vehicle is assembled is differently than the one I showed you. Keep this in mind for next week when you design your vehicle. There is more than one way to design a rolling system."

"After everyone on the team has finished their diagram, then work together to assemble the vehicle."

I explain that the vehicle parts should stay on the paper plate. I pass out screwdrivers and teams begin to disassemble and diagram the vehicles.

I circulate around the room to ask teams which parts they have located on their vehicle and what else they have discovered.

I check that diagrams are labeled and students can explain how the pieces fit together. I ask about the axle and how this helps the vehicle spin. 



Vehicle Debrief

15 minutes

After diagrams are completed and vehicles assembled, students meet me on the rug with their diagrams to debrief. I have the 3 rolling systems disassembled and visible under the document camera so students can use these to support their discussion.

"What did you learn? What is the purpose of the axle tube? How are the wheels connected to the chassis? What parts will all toy vehicles have? 

I help scaffold the discussion to develop students responses to include that the rolling system has more than just the wheel. The wheel is connected to an axle which must spin freely so that wheel can turn.The axle tube is part of the chassis and the axle fits in the tube. That the axles may have ridges to keep the wheel from sliding back and forth.

The rolling systems are not the same. Consider the motorcycle vehicle students disassembled. The wheel spins around the axle which does not spin. So the center of the wheel is like the axle tube.

I connect this experience to the students' prior exploration about what makes a vehicle roll straight and far and ask how the parts of the rolling system, help it roll straight and far.

Possible topics: the axle spins freely, but does not slide back and forth.

Some students noted the rubber around the wheels and they thought that this gave the vehicle better traction to help it roll straight.

Finally I connect this current learning experience to the next lesson. "What recycled materials could be used to for the different parts of the 'rolling system'?"

I include this question to help students begin to think how they could build their own vehicle with rolling wheels.

I direct students to place their diagrams in their science folder. Students will use their diagrams and lab observations from the previous lesson as a reference for when they sketch the designs for the vehicle they will build.