Simple machines are unique mechanical devices that help improve the daily lives of humans by allowing them to work faster, easier, and more efficiently. Simple machines are considered to be the basic mechanisms that make up all complex machines. The 6 basic types of simple machines are: pulley, screw, inclined plane, wheel and shaft, edge and lever. When people perform work, such as applying force to move heavy objects, simple machines facilitate these common tasks. When more than one simple machine works together, they create a compound machine. An example of this would be a pulley system, which consists of two or more pulleys. When a machine is made up of many simple and compound machines, they create a complex machine. A perfect example of a complex machine is a car. Cars contain many simple and independent machines: the steering wheel consists of the wheel and axle, while the gearbox in automatic cars is controlled by levers.
Pulley: the car is a simple or compound machine
- Simple Machines: The Pulley – A very basic description of the pulley, complete with hand-drawn cartoons to show examples.
- Pulleys – A Physical Science Activity – An interactive classroom lesson plan that requires two broomsticks and one meter of rope demonstrates how a pulley works.
- What is a Pulley – What is this video from MocomiKids, which offers a wonderful overview of how a pulley makes common tasks easier.
- Simple Machines and the Pulley: A Boston University student produced this wonderful guide to all simple machines. The page features a what, why, and fun facts about the pulley.
- Powerful Pulley Activity Template – This lesson plan, aimed at 3rd and 4th grade students, takes about 40 minutes to complete. (Resources are required to demonstrate this lesson.)
Wheels and Axles: automobile compound machine
- Dirtmeister Science Reporters: The Wheel and Axle – Scholastic Inc. provides a wonderful overview of what a wheel and axle are and how we use them in everyday life.
- Wheel and Axle Examples: MiKids provides tons of pictures of wheels and axles on everyday objects, as well as a quick quiz to see if kids fully understand what this simple machine is.
- Simple Machines Guide (PDF) – This guide by Terri Wakild provides an activity to build and test a wheel and axle machine. Aimed at fifth graders, it also has a fantastic vocabulary guide.
- Putting “Simple” into Simple Machines (PDF) – Intended for grades 2 and 3, this guide offers teaching activities to show students how pulleys, wheels, and axles work together.
- Simply Amazing: The Yale-New Haven Teacher Institute developed this curriculum for sixth graders to define and demonstrate simple machines, including the wheel and axle.
Lever: automobile compound machines
- Levers in Games: Pinball Wizard – Create your own simple lever machine with this fun and interactive pinball lesson plan! Parents and kids alike will love making this simple machine.
- Classroom Activities: Lever Lever – Nova teachers offer this activity in the classroom to educate children about levers. To build a brick and skewer lever, materials are required.
- Pop Fly Challenge (PDF) – A more advanced lesson plan, designed to show how the levers are everywhere
- First Class Levers: MnSTEP teaching activities provide this lesson plan that is geared toward 4th and 5th grade students. Learn about levers with this course overview for hands-on learning activities.
- Elementary Exploration – Lever (PDF) – This simple experiment is intended to show elementary school-age children how levers work. Materials needed include two pencils, three pennies, tape, and a ruler.
Inclined plane: drawings of simple machines
- The ramp or inclined plane: Did you know that a ramp is an inclined plane? Work with a classmate to list as many inclined planes as you can.
- The Ramp: Download this interactive software and follow the instructions to test the effectiveness of the incline with household items.
- Inclined Plane (PDF): With rice, a rubber band, a ruler, tape, three books, a measuring stick, a sock, and a string, this teacher’s guide teaches students how an inclined plane moves materials.
- Acceleration Lab Teacher’s Guide: A More Advanced Lesson Plan for Teaching …