Physics

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This week for STEM Friday we have physical science activities inspired by the new book:  The Kids' Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!by Kelly Doudna.

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is the perfect hands-on science book for early elementary-aged children. It has concise explanations of the science of simple machines,  clear step-by-step instructions, and enticing colorful photographs of the projects. In addition, the background information in the different sections introduces children to famous scientists and inventors, from Archimedes to the Wright brothers.

The six simple machines covered are the lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, wheel and axle, and screw. After a brief introduction to each type in the front, the following chapters give more in-depth information, numerous examples of the different simple machines, and several activities and projects to explore the concepts more fully.

Whether you are teaching science in the classroom, after school, or at home, The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is a well-designed and useful resource. The young makers of the world are going to have hours of fun trying out the activities in this book.

Related Activities:

1. Archimedes Screw

One of the simple machines from the book is the screw.

Screws1_(PSF)(Public domain image from Wikimedia)

A screw is an inclined plane wrapped around some sort of central core. In addition to holding pieces of metal or wood together, screws can also be used to move objects. Propellers are types of screws that help move boats through water or airplanes through the air.

One of the earliest examples of a screw being used to move things was invented by the Greek scientist Archimedes. We all know that water moves down slope because of gravity. Archimedes figured out a way to move water against gravity using a device that now bears his name, the Archimedes screw.

Check out this video of a simple Archimedes screw made by a young girl:

Instructions for making an Archimedes screw may be found at:

2. Simple Machines Quiz

After reading this introduction to simple machines at Idaho Public Television,  figure out what kind or kinds of simple machines are illustrated here  (Public domain images are from Wikimedia).

Answers are at the bottom of the post.

A. What kind(s) of simple machine(s) are these scissors?

Scissors3_(PSF)

B. How about this wheelbarrow?

Wheelbarrow_(PSF)

C. What kind of simple machine is an adze?

Adz_(PSF)

D. How about this press, which might be used to squeeze the juice out of apples?

Press_2_(PSF)

Learn more with The Kids' Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!by Kelly Doudna

Age Range: 5 - 9 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Mighty Media Kids (August 25, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1938063597
ISBN-13: 978-1938063596

Disclosure: The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Answers:

A. Scissors:  You are correct if you answered lever or wedge. Scissors are complex machines consisting of double levers and wedges (the blades).

B. Wheelbarrow:  Also a complex machine, a wheelbarrow combines a wheel/axle with a lever.

C. Adze:  The blade of the adze is a wedge.

D. Press:  The simple machine found in this press is a screw.

How did you do? If you'd like to learn more about simple machines, please let us know.

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Our science activities and lessons today are inspired by the children's picture book Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater. With Groundhog Day just two weeks away (February 2, 2013), it would be a great time to learn more about groundhogs and do some science activities relating to shadows and weather. For more about the book and other books for the celebration of Groundhog Day, visit Wrapped in Foil.

1. Learn about groundhogs or woodchucks and create an age-appropriate fact sheet.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are rodents belonging to the marmot family. Their scientific name is Marmota monax. They live throughout the eastern and northern parts of North America, all the way north to Alaska.

Groundhogs live in burrows they dig in the ground. They come out of the burrow to eat plants during the summer. Often you can see them alongside highways grazing on the road banks or sitting up looking for danger. Sometimes they climb small trees or shrubs to escape from enemies or to explore new types of food.

In the winter groundhogs hibernate deep underground. Sometimes they will come out of hibernation to search for food. This has become part of the Groundhog Day story.

Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs because they whistle to communicate with each other. The Marmot Burrow website has a recording of a male groundhog whistling.

In this video, you can see a young groundhog and learn more about their habits.

For a longer and more extensively narrated video about a woodchuck family, see Groundhogs 2005-2008 An uncommon look at a common animal. The link takes you to the video at YouTube (sharing has been disabled). Update:  See the videos on the new website.

You also might want to read some of the books listed below. When you are done, create a fact sheet about groundhogs to share what you have learned. Include drawings of the animals and their homes.

2. Science of Shadows

A. Preschool-K Level:  Exploring Shadows

Gather:

  • flashlights
  • bare, light-colored wall in a darkened room (ceiling is fun, too)
  • assorted objects to cast shadows, including a wide-toothed comb or hair pick, and a ball

Darken a room somewhat and then use the flashlight to explore shadows. Move an object closer to the flashlight and then farther way. Move the flashlight closer to the object and pull it away. What happens? What happens when you hold the comb in front of the flashlight? Now turn on a second flashlight. Shine the two flashlights on an object. Slowly move the flashlights apart. What happens to the shadow(s)?

Older children will enjoy making shadow animals and/or shadow puppets.

How about a groundhog shadow puppet to celebrate Groundhog Day? Cut out a groundhog shape and glue it to a craft stick with white glue. Now take it outside and see if the groundhog will see its shadow.

B. Elementary:  Chasing shadows

Need:

  • Hard level surface out of doors large enough for each participant to record their shadows
  • Sidewalk chalk of different colors
  • Yardstick or measuring tape (optional)
  • Compass (optional)
  • Sunny day

Start by going outside in the morning. Have the children chose a place to stand. Draw a circle of chalk around their feet and then write their initials inside the circle. Now, have them stand with their back to the sun. Have a helper draw a line around their shadow. Measure the length of the shadow. Check the direction of the shadow using the compass (optional).

Return and repeat the process around noon and later in the afternoon. How have the shadows changed? Discuss how the shadows might be different in the different seasons as the sun appears to be higher or lower in the sky due to the Earth's tilt.

C. Older:  Make a sundial

There are many great websites that show how to make an explore a sundial. Here are just two:

D. Older:  Use a shadow to measure a tree.

To find out more about Groundhogs, try these nonfiction children's books:

Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater

Library Binding: 24 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429686731
ISBN-13: 978-1429686730

 

Groundhog's Burrow (Science Slam: the Hole Truth!: Underground Animal Life) by Dee Phillips

Orphan The Story of A Baby Woodchuck by Faith McNulty

For more about Shadows, try these nonfiction children's books:

What makes a shadow? (Let's-read-and-find-out science) by Clyde Robert Bull and illustrated by June Otani

Publisher: Scholastic; Revised edition (1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590275933
ISBN-13: 978-0590275934

Shadows by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson


Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (March 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805060596
ISBN-13: 978-0805060591

Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows (Amazing Science) by Natalie M. Rosinsky  and illustrated by Sheree Boyd

Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Picture Window Books (January 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1404803327
ISBN-13: 978-1404803329

Light and Shadows (Science@School) by Brian J. Knapp

Moonbear's Shadow (Moonbear Books) by Frank Asch (One of our favorite fiction books about shadows).

Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 3/1/2000
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Age 5 and Up

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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Today Growing with Science is hosting STEM Friday, the meme that highlights Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children (as well as older favorites). The STEM Friday book meme can found each week at the  STEM Friday blog. It is a great resource if you are looking for the newest and best in STEM books for kids.
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You know how much we love hands-on activities here at Growing With Science, which is why we were excited to find Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions (Invent It)by Tammy Enz.


(Affiliate Link)

Author Enz is a civil engineer, and her experience shows in the details in each of the projects. Included are instructions on how to make a device that can open an close a door remotely (with strings), a newspaper fort, a trash grabber, toothpick bridge, a pet waterer and many more. Each project comes with a list of materials and step-by-step instructions with color photographs accompanying each step.

In additions to the projects, sidebars are sprinkled throughout that reveal some historically-important inventions. Did you know the can opener was invented 48 years after the invention of the tin can? Amazing!

Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions would be great for a busy teacher looking for a quick science or engineering project because it has complete and detailed plans. It would also be fun for the home inventor who could build the project as presented and then use the skills he or she learned to tweak the design or come with up with a whole new invention.

Related activity:

The book contains plans for a toothpick bridge held together with hot glue. If you want to work with younger children who aren't ready for a hot glue gun, however, try the classic toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. The children can build bridges or towers. Hint: Fresh marshmallows can be mushy. Allow the marshmallows dry out for several days to stabilize the structure before testing or moving it.

This quick video shows some of the details.


Other materials that can be used for building bridges or towers include plastic drinking straws, craft sticks, and dried spaghetti.

Even grapes can work in a pinch, although the structure won't be a permanent one.

These projects are sure to lead to bigger things!

More about bridges (scroll to bottom for additional links)

Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions by Tammy Enz

Reading level:  3-4
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (January 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429679816
ISBN-13: 978-1429679817

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.