Tag Archives: rube goldberg machines

Science Week 9: Simple Machines

Welcome to a particularly video-linked heavy edition of our weekly science post.  I decidedly did not want to do science for that day.  Yet somehow it turned out to be a very successful science day.  Go figure.

Simple machines is a topic we had previously done with our co-op last year as part of a larger unit on tools.  Below, you can see Mushroom showing off his ride for “The Screw” on the day we did it.  The kids all made an amusement park for the little plastic figures based on different simple machines then played with them on the various rides.

There were plenty of video resources for simple machines.  First of all, we watched the excellent Bill Nye episode about simple machines.  Next, we tackled the Eureka! episodes from season 2, which dealt with the inclined plane, the leverthe screw and the wheel and the pulley.  As always, those were slightly complicated for the first grade set, but they enjoyed them nonetheless.  Less complicated was the Brainpop Jr. video on simple machines.  Most Brainpop videos are subscription only, but this one is free.

Next, as always, we did something in our journals.  We talked about how machines reduce work, which was very clearly covered in the Eureka! videos.  We looked for examples of simple machines in magazines and newspapers then labeled them.

Then, the real fun began.  We watched several videos of Rube Goldberg machines.  If you go to Youtube and search for “Rube Goldberg” or “Pitagora Suichi” then you’ll find a million of them.  Mushroom and BalletBoy’s favorite is probably this Easter themed one.  We also watched this amazing video from OK Go.  That video also has a TED talk about it, which is an inspiring little thing and fun to watch.  We finished by making our own Rube Goldberg contraption.  I told the kids it had to involve at least three different types of simple machines.  They chose to create something using the wheel, the inclined plane and a pulley.  They knew we were filming this and had already decided it would be their ticket to Youtube fame.  Thus, if you watch the video of their contraption, you’ll hear them screaming, “We’re famous!” when it finally worked.

Rube Goldberg Style Posting

Why, yes, I did just show my kids a TED talk.  This one as a matter of fact:

It’s about the OK Go video for “This Too Shall Pass,” which we’ve been fans of for awhile.  In fact, we’re just huge fans of Rube Goldberg machines or pitagora suichi, as the Japanese say, in general.  The video is at the end of the TED talk.  It’s not the best TED talk ever, but it contained the following life lesson that I really appreciated, which was that they had to do the little things, which were actually the most difficult ones, first and leave the easy ones, which turned out to be the big ones, for last.

Which leads me to the fact that we used the OK Go video for inspiration when we made our own pitagora suichi during the weeks while we were snowed in and all our activities were canceled.  It was fun.  We used it again when we studied simple machines with our co-op in the spring.  We watched the video and yelled out various simple machines we spotted.  “Lever!”  “Pulley!”  Much fun.

That leads me to a question given by the presenter at the science session I went to at my first homeschooling conference.  She reminded us that science can be divided into life sciences, earth sciences and physical sciences.  Then she asked which one we all do the most.  Apparently the correct answer was “life sciences.”  I guess I’ve been doing something wrong then because we did do a lot of biology last year, but we also did a good amount of physical sciences and I’ve been preparing our own curriculum so we can study physical sciences all next year.  She claimed to be against that bias.  Then she made a face when referencing a pulley.  Then she went ahead and showed lots of examples, the vast majority of which were about life sciences and nature study.  In other words, I’m not really sure if she was against that bias as she thought she was.

Which leads me to the fact that the homeschooling conference in general was a bit of a dud for me.  I bought a couple of Usborne books I had wanted and a game which lets kids practice addition and play tic-tac-toe Gobblet style.  My big takeaway was that there sure are a lot of young earth and creationist science materials out there.  I knew that already, but this really let me know it.  Also, I kept thinking about this recent post from Smrt Lernins about a Bob Jones University homeschool science textbook that incorrectly explained electricity in a way that I found really disturbing.  Every time I passed the big BJU table in the back of the vendors hall, I wanted to make faces at them.  Also, I spotted two vendors selling the Pearls’ book To Train Up a Child. Families following this method have been implicated in the deaths of their offspring on more than one occasion, so that made me want to act out a little too.  Which leads me to the conclusion that while I was glad I went so I could say I’ve been to a homeschooling conference and tried to be open minded about the offerings, I don’t think I’ll be going again.

Which leads to…  the end of the post!  I wish I could make it ring a bell or play the little seven note Japanese children’s show theme song that the pitagora suichi play.  Here.  You can just go see that for yourself instead.