3 - 5
The purpose of this activity is for students to use simple machines to examine the relationships between force and motion. Students will complete a science journal and participate in group activities demonstrating the use of simple machines.
Interest Approach – Engagement:
- Pictures for Interest Approach
For each student:
- Science Journal (cover page and station worksheets stapled together)
For each station:
- Station 1
- 3 books tied together with string
- Large, sturdy rubber band
- Skateboard or similar object with wheels
- Station 2
- Yardstick marked at 24"
- Book tied with string
- Large, sturdy rubber band
- Metal bookend or some other object for a balance point (fulcrum)
- Station 3
- Apples, 1 per group)
- Paper towels
- Plastic knife or a metal apple cutter
- Station 4
- 2 books tied together with string
- Large, sturdy rubber band
- String, 3' (91.44 cm)
- Pulley (or broom stick or long dowel) with string for hanging
- Station 5
- Books, at least 5
- Large, sturdy rubber band
- Shoe box lid
- Rock (about the size of a baseball) with string tied around it
- Station 6
- Several 1" (2.54 cm) screws
- Several 1/2" (1.27 cm) thick pieces of wood
- Station 7
- Blocks of wood, 2 per group
- Grease (petroleum jelly)
- Plastic knife
- Station 8
- Carpet piece
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
Pictures for Interest Approach
agriculture: the science, art, and business of food, fiber, and floral production; includes the processes required to get a product from farm to market
energy: the ability to do work
force: a push or a pull
fulcrum: a pivot point on which a lever turns
friction: a resistant force caused by rubbing
lubricant: a substance such as oil or grease applied to an area to make objects move with less friction
movement: an action or activity
work: a force applied over distance causing the movement or displacement of an object
Background - Agricultural Connections
This lesson is part of a series called, Simple and Complex Machines Used in Agriculture. These lessons introduce students to the simple and complex machines used in their daily lives and in food and fiber production. Through a variety of hands-on activities, students create models of the six types of simple machines and discover the concepts of force and friction. The essential role of complex machines in people's daily lives and in agriculture is interwoven through a number of class and homework activities that incorporate cooperative learning, writing, mathematics, art, and drama. Together these activities are designed to stimulate creative thinking and motivate learning. Other related lessons include:
Prior to this lesson students should have a basic knowledge of the six simple machines. Machines involve the force of a push or pull. Machines cannot create energy; they use the energy available in an efficient way. Stored (potential) energy is converted to mechanical (kinetic) energy.
As energy is transformed from one form to another or transferred from one object to the next, some of it is converted into heat energy because of friction. Friction is the force between two surfaces that resists the motion of one object past another. Friction is useful when one does not want an object to slip. Friction is important when a tire rolls across a road, or sandpaper rubs across wood. Other times friction is less desirable. For example, the rubbing between metal in machine parts causes them to wear down or release heat in unwanted areas. The use of lubricants and ball bearings can reduce unwanted friction. Machine lubricants come from many sources, including fossil fuels and inedible beef fats.
The station activities in this lesson allow your students to experience firsthand the six simple machines in action and the effect friction has on the efficiency of the machines. The students will also observe the effects of lubricants and ball bearings.
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Prior to this lesson, your students should have a basic knowledge of simple machines. Show your students the three pictures found in the Essential Files. They can be printed or projected on a screen. Each picture contains a scenario on the farm where a simple machine can be used to complete a task.
- Allow students to use their knowledge to try to determine what kind of simple machine will help perform the work. There can be more than one correct answer. Use the pictures to stimulate discussion and interest. Although complex machines can be used, keep the discussion focused on simple machines.
- Moving the baby calf: Placing the calf in a wheel barrow uses both a wheel and axle and a lever to lift the weight of the calf and move it to the new location.
- Transporting grain to the silo: Grain is often moved from place to place with an auger. An auger is a rotating screw located inside a tube. As the screw rotates, the grain is moved up the tube and into the silo.
- Transporting hay bales: Most large hay bales are lifted using a loader. Loaders use a lever to lift the bale. The bales are then loaded onto a trailer which uses wheels and axles.
- Divide students into eight groups. Distribute the Science Journals to the students. The journals should include the title page and all of the station worksheets stapled together. It may also include blank pages for writing assignments prompted by you or your students.
- Place the station materials in eight locations around the room.
- Have the groups rotate from station to station every 15-20 minutes. Four rotations might be done one day and the rest another day. Set up the format to accommodate what works best for your classroom.
- Have the students complete each activity and worksheet at the appropriate station. Each worksheet contains directions for a self-directed activity. Some guidelines for successful station work are described below:
- Preview the experiments with the students before they begin the station activities.
- Review your classroom expectations on cooperation, set-up, participation, and clean-up.
- Assign roles to each member in the group such as supply person and time monitor.
- Inform your students of the time five minutes before changing stations.
- When the rotations are complete, direct a discussion about what the students discovered. Ask them to share their science journal writings with one another.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key points:
- There are many simple tools and complex modern machines used in agriculture.
- Tools and machines make the process of growing and producing our food and fiber easier and more efficient.
- Farmers and ranchers can produce more food with less effort with the use of machines and tools.
- Do each station as a whole class activity.
- Assign older students from another class to be the leaders for each station.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
- Read the book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Have the students discuss the simple and complex machines in the story.
- Have students do research and report on agricultural by-products used in the production or use of machines.
- Ask a farmer, rancher, crop duster, agricultural equipment representative, or food distributor to visit your class to discuss the machines he/she uses.
Suggested Companion Resources
Machines on the Farm (Book)
Big Book of Big Tractors (Book)
How a Combine Works (Multimedia)
Hookin' Up and How it Works on the Farm (Multimedia)
Tractor Timeline- A History of Tractors (Website)
This lesson was funded in 1996 by the California Beef Council and the California Farm Bureau Federation. To meet the needs of California educators, Simple and Complex Machines Used in Agriculture was revised to support the Curriculum Content Standards for California Public Schools and updated to include recent agricultural innovations. Funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation made this revision possible.
Illustrators: Karin Bakotich, Pat Houk, Sherri Hughes, Regina Johnson
Layout and Design: Nina Danner
Tonja Cargill and Pamela Emery
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom