What to Do

1. Ask the children to think of ways they can lift items -- without holding them! Encourage the children to share and experiment with their ideas.

2. Explain that they can construct a pulley to lift things. Give the children a pole, and slide a cardboard tube onto it. Help them find somewhere to place the pole horizontally (between two chairs, on two block towers, or on a classroom loft).

3. Tie a long piece of string to a bucket (the string should be twice as long as the space between the pole and the floor). Suspend the string over the cardboard tube.

4. Show the children that when they pull down on the string, the bucket on the other end moves up. Place small items in the bucket, and let children take turns pulling them up to the top.

5. Invite the children to place a variety of items in the bucket. Are some easier to pull up than others? Why do they think that is?


At the playground, help the children make a pulley on the climber or slide. Tie a piece of string to a bucket, and suspend the string from the top of the slide or climber. Then let the children have fun moving items to the top and back down again.


Children explore how simple machines help people move things as they learn how pulleys function.


What to Do

1. Ask children and parents to bring in reusable trash, such as cardboard boxes, paper and plastic cups, cardboard tubes, cake and pie tins, egg cartons, plastic bottles, and juice cartons.

2. Invite the children to design a structure they can build with some of the items. Encourage them to plan what they will make and which of the items they'll use. What other materials will they need? How will they hold the items together? How will they build the structure?

3. Encourage the children to work together to build the structure. As they work, ask them questions to encourage creative and critical thinking: How can they make the structure steadier? Where might be the best place to put the largest carton? Take photos as the children work together

4. When they're done, invite the children to talk about their structure and how they made it. Compile their comments on a chart, and add the photos and any drawings children make.


  • Work with children to set up a recycling system for your classroom. Children can decorate cardboard boxes to use as sorting bins. Each bin should indicate the materials it's for: plastic, paper, metal cans, Styrofoam. Then visit your local recycling center. Talk with the people who work there about how your items will be made into new materials.


Children learn that items can be recycled and reused. They develop critical and creative-thinking skills as they explore balance, symmetry, and weight.