On the student pages, the students learn that Jack and Jill are tired of going up the hill to complete the difficult task of fetching a pail of water. They want your students to create a pulley system, using gear sets (I use Gears! Gears! Gears!), to help them out.
I use this activity with my high school Applied STEM course. We spend the beginning of the unit discussing simple machines, mechanical advantage, and gear ratios (they use the gear sets to scale up and create a 24-tooth gear out of foam). This mini-challenge only takes a couple days and allows me to discuss the engineering design process (I do this at the beginning of the year as we just start to talk about the cycle) and help students gain familiarity with it.
Please see the product preview file for information about the materials you will need for this project. Most are things you should have around your classroom, but you may need to purchase (or borrow) gear sets.
*This project could easily be used with middle school students. I could also see it working with elementary students, but it would need modifications.