Simple Machine PBL (Project Based Learning)
What educators are saying
*Updated 4/2017 to include photos of the investigations.
This PBL is super easy to implement. I have included 1-2 investigations for each simple machine. Students have a Scientific Notebook to record their data for each investigation. Each investigation includes a materials list and directions. The PBL concludes with students using what they learned from their investigations to create a machine using at least 2 simple machines. An Inventor's Journal is also included to prompt students with revising their machine.
Investigation #1 students build two incline planes of different lengths but of the same heights.
Materials: books to prop up the inclined plane on, spring scale, 2 pieces of wood that are of unequal length, object to move up the inclined planes, toy cars
Investigation #2 students build 2 incline planes that are the same lengths but different heights.
Materials: books to prop up the inclined plane on, spring scale, 2 pieces of wood that are the same length, object to move up the inclined planes, toy cars
Investigation #3 students build a lever and they move the fulcrum. They chart how much weight is needed to move the lever.
Materials: pencil, sturdy ruler, small object to lift (wooden blocks, board eraser, small book), objects to measure weight (pennies, marbles, washers), tape
Investigation #4 students move a wedge and blunt object through sand/rice and record their observation.
Materials: small pan, rice/small noodles, wedge, square block
Investigation #5 students compare a thin wedge and a thick wedge.
Materials: thin wedge, thick wedge, ruler, 4-6 heavy books
Investigation #6 students create a four wheeled cart and measure how much force is required to move a heavy object.
Materials: 4 spools of thread that are the same size, 2 pencils, sturdy cardboard, tape, stapler or other heavy object
Investigation #7 students measure how much force is needed to lift a heavy object using no pulley, 1 pulley, and 2 pulleys.
Materials: 3 toilet paper tubes, cardboard, tape, thick string/twine, heavy object such as a stapler
Investigation #8 students observe how a screw works and compares it to an inclined plane.
Materials: paper cut into a large, right triangle, crayon, pencil, tape
On a time crunch? This PBL can be completed in 2 weeks. If you set up the investigations as centers, students can complete all 8 investigations in a week and they can work on their inventions the following week.
This PBL is easy to use in the primary classroom but contains complex problem solving that is also appropriate for intermediate grades.