The third simple machine we introduced to the children were levers and fulcrums. We had already seen examples of children using them on the playground when they used logs and branches to create their own see saws.
At project time we chose to introduce two lever and fulcrum activities, first using a game called jumping pixies. Small balls are launched with a lever and fulcrum toward a target in the center of the table. Children had to use just the right amount of force to get the pixie in the target.
The other lever fulcrum activity involved making a lever and fulcrum from wooden sticks and blocks, and using them to launch felt balls in the classroom. Again children enjoyed experimenting with the effects of different amounts of force.
The next machine we introduced to children was a conveyor belt. Given their continued interest in playing factory, we wanted to give children an example of a more organized process they could incorporate into their play. We found an unused roll of contact paper and taped a dowel to each end. At project time we stretched it out across a table and showed the children how to turn one of the dowels while someone else held the other end, making the conveyor belt advance across the table. We then organized other children to place plastic caps on one end of the conveyor belt while two more children collected the caps from the end of the belt and sorted them into boxes. Periodically we would all switch jobs so that everyone would have a turn.
Children were given the opportunity to use the machine project materials in the following days at choice time. We began seeing more process and organization to their play that earlier in the year often centered on dumping classroom materials inside their “factory” or “house”.
Here children at a “recycling center” are sorting materials into separate containers as other children drop them off.
These children have created an “oven” in which “candies” are placed on the ramp and slid into the oven with a long stick, while another child pulls them out of the other side with his stick.
We then found a short video clip for the children to watch showing how chocolates are made. The children were fascinated by a few steps of the process including the filling extruder/slicer, the chocolate curtain, and the cooling tunnel. At project time we revisited the conveyor belt activity, this time adding a tunnel, mixer, and slicer stations.
Again, many children were eager to replay the activity at choice time over the following days, trying out a variety of materials to represent the candies in the factory.
As we progressed in our machines project we continued to see its influence in the children’s play. These children built a ball machine in which there was a defined process to follow in order to play. A large red tube was filled with balls which were then released onto the floor. All players would scramble to pick up the balls and set them rolling down a ramp, then the balls were all gathered up and the process was repeated.