In preparation for making their circus characters move, like Sandy Calder did, with simple machines, 2nd graders rotated through stations exploring how ramps, levers, wheel/axles and pulleys make work easier and have other benefits, such as changing the direction of motion in the case of pulleys.
Using resources from Engineering Is Elementary: Marvelous Machines , students manipulate materials and measure the difference in work required with different scenarios. They record their results in the pages we have pasted into their Science Notebooks and then we redo each station one more time together and go over the data together to reinforce how to record their results in a table.
The Unistrut framework that was recently added to the ceiling of our Science Labs is the perfect support for the pulleys as it can hold up to 500 lbs. We attach the pulleys onto the Unistrut trolley for moving circus characters horizontally and use the pulleys for vertical or lateral movement.
These stations provide opportunities to discuss new science principles and vocabulary such as friction, gravity, momentum, inertia and occasionally we even venture into centrifugal force for children that are curious about it.
At the same time as we are doing these stations, students are bringing in Forces and Motion Menu projects that they’ve completed at home to share with the class. Students are given a Menu* of projects to choose from that are differentiated for different types of learners and are completely accessible to all students. They are child-centered with only limited support required from parents. It’s always amazing to me how remarkably different each of the products is from the others.
*Menu Projects are optional at-home offerings for our K-4th grade students and are adapted from the book Differentiating instruction With Menus – Science by Laurie E. Westphal