Teach third-graders basic machine concepts through simple machine projects. Use these projects to teach about the use of machines against resistance through the transformation of energy typically supplied by a human. You can also use simple machine projects to teach third-graders about levers, inclined planes and wheels and axles, which are the three basic machine types.
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Machines that use Rollers
You can teach the concept of using rollers with some books, a bucket, some weights, string, hook, masking tape and some round pens or pencils. This project illustrates how using rollers underneath an object helps reduce the resistance of friction. You perform this project by looping one end of the string around the science book and placing a hook on the other. Add the bucket to the hook and let the bucket dangle off the end of the table. Add weights until the weighted bucket begins to move the book. Write down how many weights it took to move the book. Next, place the pens or pencils underneath the book and repeat the process.
An inclined plane is a simple machine that is also known as a ramp. Demonstrate how inclined planes help to move heavy objects with some books, some string and a long board. Tie the string around the books and try to pick the books straight up with the string. Next, stack some books and elevate one end of the board on the book to form a ramp. Pull the same books up the ramp with the string. Have students note the difference the ramp made in moving the books. Point out that an inclined plane reduces the amount of force needed to lift the books.
Demonstrate how a wheel and axle work by having students build their own rolling cart. Have students bring supplies from home to build a rolling cart. Materials needed include four empty thread spools, two unsharpened pencils, a small, empty cardboard box, such as an empty matchbox, masking tape and glue. Assemble the cart by gluing the pencils to the bottom of the box on each end and putting the spools on the ends of the pencils. Use the masking tape to tape the ends of pencils so that the wheels do not slip off the cart.
Lever in Action
Use a milk carton, a dowel and some washers to show an example of a lever in action. Cut a groove in the middle of the dowel rod and grooves in 1-inch intervals along the length of the dowel. Place it on the milk carton, making a miniature see-saw. The milk carton is the fulcrum of the lever. Place the washers in the different grooves in the dowel to make the see-saw balance. Have the students experiment with different numbers of washers in different places on the dowel to make the see-saw balance.
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