Internet Field Trip: Simple Machines
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Observe and identify the types of simple machines.
- Conduct research and gather data to increase knowledge of simple machines.
- Apply knowledge and organize data to complete a graphic organizer and focus questions.
- Identify and understand terms that apply to simple machines.
- Communicate data and observations with a partner.
- Internet Field Trip Worksheets (PDF)
- Computers with Internet access
- Simple machine examples - these can be actual items, pictures, or a list on the board. Examples include: hammer, door jam, crowbar, roller skate, doorknob, toy car, jar lids, light bulbs, nail, fork, knife, crane, flagpole, fishing reel, scissors, pliers, eggbeater, rolling pin, and spatula.
Set Up and Prepare
- Make a class set of the Internet Field Trip Worksheets (PDF).
- Organize students into partners for research gathering and written work.
- Gather simple machine examples, but do not display them until research is completed.
- Reserve computer time if necessary.
Assess prior knowledge of simple machines through discussion questions:
- How many of you have ever visited an aquarium with dolphins, or sharks?
- What is the largest animal the aquarium might have?
- How do you suppose the aquarium moves the animals from the ocean to their location or from one tank to another?
- If you were a marine biologist asked to transport a killer whale (orca) that is 22 feet long and weighs over 7 tons from the sea to your aquarium, what would you do?
- Some of you suggested using machines to move the whale. What do you think of when you hear the word "machine?"
- Why do we use machines?
- Machines make our work easier. Can you think of some examples? (answers will vary, but most will likely be complex machines)
- Many machines are complex, with lots of moving parts. All complex machines are made from simple machines. Some simple machines only have one part that doesn't move. Can anyone name a simple machine? (Record ideas or examples on the board.)
- There are six simple machines, and today we are going to take an ‘Internet Field Trip' to learn more. Remember the problem with moving the whale, and we will discuss this again.
Arrange students into partners. Distribute the Internet Field Trip Worksheets (PDF).
Discuss the steps on the handout, and instruct students that they will visit the Web sites listed and complete the requested information. Review each section of the handout, and check for understanding. Each student can complete their own handout, or they can work as a team on one.
Direct the students to begin gathering data. Supervise and assess progress.
Complete any remaining research.
Assemble students to share the results of the research.
Engage students in a discussion covering answers to the focus questions.
Invite students to take a look at the collection of simple machine objects (or pictures/list). If you have actual objects, let students handle them and identify the work they perform. Ask students to classify each object as one of the six simple machines.
Request students to share the examples of simple machines they cited on their graphic organizer, without mentioning what type of machine it is. Ask other students to classify the machine and what type of work it performs.
Ask the class if they remember the marine biologists' problem with moving a killer whale. Now that students are familiar with the six simple machines, encourage them to suggest methods of moving the whale. Which machines would be useful? Would they use a combination of machines?
Create anticipation for Lesson Two by dropping a teaser for the next activity: Now that students are familiar with the functions of the six simple machines, ask them to start thinking about how the machines could be used to create an obstacle course.
Supporting All Learners
Working with a partner will assist struggling readers and ESL students. Knowledge of the six simple machines can be reinforced by manipulating physical examples of each type.
Dirtmeister's Science Lab on Levers
A fun hands-on activity for early finishers, or the entire class. Scholastic's Dirtmeister keeps students engaged with a lever-building project that culminates with a challenge.
In the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien, the rats are so clever they learn how to use simple machines to build and move things, including Mrs. Frisby's house. Read this section of the book, and have students illustrate the rats' invention.
Simple machines are found everywhere around the home. Students could involve parents in compiling a list of simple machines in each room. Which room has the most? Which has the fewest?
- Research simple machine information from Web sites.
- Work with a partner to complete a graphic organizer and focus questions.
- Think of methods to apply what has been learned to the construction of an obstacle course.
- Was the introduction sufficient to engage students in conversation?
- Were you satisfied with the amount of work delivered on the research? The focus questions?
- Were the students able to find the necessary information from the available Web sites?
- How could you improve the research process?
- How could you improve the handouts? Is there any information you would include next time?
- Were you satisfied with the amount of interest on this lesson?
- Do you feel everyone understood the information? If not, what will you include next time?
Assessment should be determined by completion of the graphic organizer and focus questions.