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Basic Concepts

Simple Machines


Activities for Students

Activities for Teachers

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Activities for Teachers

Below are sites featuring a variety of on-line and in-class activities related to concepts about simple machines and their applications. Many are complete unit plans with materials lists, student learning objectives, background information, lesson plans, andGet Adobeevaluations. Some of the documents are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. To get this free application click on the Adobe button at right. Where I've been able to determine it, I've included the grade level range for which the activities are a best fit.

Work and Simple Machines
These Curriculum Support Links are from a NASA sponsored workshop for teachers. Included are activities, definitions of terms, LEGO projects, etc. for use by middle school and elementary school teachers in their classrooms. The URLs linking to the activities and definitions are, however out of date. Use the links below to access these documents. Documents describing the use of LEGO Logo equipment are available for download.
Ramp Car
Sail Car
Sail Links
Tractor Pull
Cams and Followers
Mechanical Advantage
Racks and Pinions
Lesson Plans from Incline Academy for Primary Grades
These pages include three kindergarten, one first grade, and one second grade lesson plan using Legos to teach basic concepts about structures and machines.

Lesson Plans from Discovery.com
This page offers lesson plans and activities for grades K-5 related to themes presented on shows broadcast on the Discovery Channel. Included are lessons abaout inventions and technology.
Putting the "Simple" in Simple Machines
This is a PDF document (i.e. you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it) which is a complete unit for second grade on simple machines presented at the Core Knowledge National Conference in Orlando. It includes background information, materials and supplies, complete lesson plans, you name it.
Exploring Simple Machines
This is another PDF document providing a complete unit of instruction on simple machines written at the upper elementary -- middle school level of reading comprehension. It introduces the concepts of simple machines and their application to doing work and includes questions for students to answer and investigate.
Mechanical Advantage
This PDF document continues the unit above offering the same high level of background information and hands on activities for intermediate level students. This time the topic is mechanical advantage.
Work it Out with Simple Machines
This PDF document is a unit about simple machines from the Science Tools for Teachers program at the Museum of Virginia. It is comprehensive in scope, materials, and supplies needed. It is aimed at intermediate level students.
Moving Along with Simple Machines
This is a thematically integrated instructional unit about simple machines developed by the Henry County School District in Georgia. Targeted at grade 3, the unit is very complete from content background to performance tasks and assessment rubrics.

From the Boston Museum of Science:
Be Inventive!
This activity has students attempt to design and build models that solve several problems posed in the handouts. Handouts and suggested materials lists as well as day by day descriptions of the activities are included at the site.
Sketching Gadget Anatomy
As in the previous activity students are led to investigate machines this time through drawing. This activity is similarly complete in its description, etc.

Marvelous Machines
This site features a variety of activities by which students can explore the properties and operation of simple machines at school and in their homes.
Simple Machines
from the Ithaca School District A nice series of activities and explorations are provided for each type of simple machine.

Last updated Friday, March 15, 2002
© 2002 All rights reserved   Tom Stork
Background adapted from "Design for a flying machine," a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci