Simple machines are basic objects that enable you to do work while exerting a single force. Projects involving simple machines are one way for children to learn about them as well as use critical thinking skills and creativity. You can make a variety of projects using items found at home or for low prices at hardware stores.
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A screw is a simple machine that most people think of only when building or repairing something, but a screw can be used in other ways as well. A screw can be used to move liquids around a central point, and first-graders can create a drink-mixing screw with a dowel rod and air-dry clay. Wrap the clay around the dowel rod to create a large spiral shape, and let dry. Paint it with a food-safe waterproof glaze, and let it dry. Put it in your drink and spin the top to mix it up.
A fun collaborative project that children can do and then use in the classroom is a supply pulley system for sharing things like markers, coloured pencils and scissors. Attach two pulleys to sturdy rods at the end of a row of desks and run a thin rope around them. Clip lightweight buckets onto the lower string that can hold class supplies, and fill them with the amount needed for that row of students. Let the students deliver supplies to each other using the pulley system instead of getting up out of their seats to borrow something from their friends.
A door wedge is a simple machine that first-graders can take home and use. A wedge does not require any assembly, but to be a bedroom door holder it needs to have decoration. Have the students try to explain why the wedge can keep the door open at any distance. Ask them to think of other ways they can use the wedge, such as to separate items that are stuck together. After they have figured out what they can use this simple machine for, have them paint it to take home and use in their rooms to prop their doors open.
See-saw Weight Measure
A weight measure uses both simple machines and mathematical concepts. With a plank balanced on its exact middle on a fulcrum, the inclined plane will need equal weight on each side so that it can stay level. Give first-graders the fulcrum and an inclined plane and have them find the centre of the plane and balance it on the fulcrum. Give them several different objects, and have them determine which ones are heavier by using the weight measure they made.
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