Forces and Simple Machines #4: Eggshell and Books Challenge

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, the children conduct a simple science experiment with eggshells and library books.  This is the only lesson in BiblioGarden that is designed to be a science experiment, so take advantage of this opportunity!  Building on the children’s work with forces, you will use library books to demonstrate how strong eggshells are.  My kids love this lesson, no one ever correctly predicts the outcome, and it is something they’ll be talking about all year.  So, pick up some fresh eggs, have a sponge and bucket ready just in case, pile on the books, and keep your fingers crossed!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested grades:

2-5

Objective:

To measure the strength of four eggshells.  (AASL 2.2.3, “Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.”)  There is probably a better science standard, but this is the best I can do from within the librarian framework.

Suggested Time:

55-60 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will participate in testing the strength of eggshells with library books.  The books will push down on the eggshells.  This push can be measured in terms of kilograms or pounds of weight (technical, pounds-force as opposed to pounds-mass).

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the students that every force is either a push or a pull.  (Link in case you want to revise this with DK Find Out:  DK Find Out!  What is a force?)  They might have different names like “thrust” or “lift” or “gravity,” but every force is a push or a pull.

Explain to the students that it is rare that the librarian gets to take part in a forces lesson, and even more rare for library books to be used in a science experiment.  But today is a special day because we’ll be doing a science experiment with books!

Ask the children what would happen if they went outside and dropped a raw egg on the pavement.  Everyone will predict that the egg will break.  Ask the children whether eggshells are fragile or strong.  They will almost certainly answer, “Fragile.”  Could an eggshell support its own weight?  Could an eggshell support more than its own weight?  Ask the students to make a prediction about how much weight four eggshells could support.  Ask the students to predict how many books the eggshells could hold.  As a comparison, how many books could they easily hold or carry in their school backpacks?

Tell the students that today, they will be testing their hypothesis using library books.  Have the class “number off,” then begin by giving instructions to the students one or a few at a time.

2. Main:

Ask the children to sit in a large circle around the experiment table.  It is important for the kids to keep their distance so that everyone can see and so that everyone can come up and participate.  Give instructions to children according to their number so that each child gets to be involved in several steps.  Ask the teacher to scribe the experiment and photograph the experiment as you and the children work.

The children will perform the action, but the steps of the experiment are:

  1. Cover table with plastic or protective sheeting.
  2. Set four eggs in bottle caps.
  3. Set four more bottle caps on top of the eggs.
  4. Position the eggs so that they are at the points of an imaginary square about the same size and shape as a book.
  5. Place the cardboard piece on top of the four top bottle caps. The cardboard should be touching all four top bottle caps and is used as a platform for the books.
  6. A few at a time, in numerical order, have the children take turns putting books on top of the cardboard platform.
  7. Continue placing books on top of one another until you run out of time or until the children are satisfied that the eggs can hold a lot of weight! Every child should get two or three turns to place a book on the eggs.  I usually stop the experiment before the eggs break.
  8. Once every child has placed two or three books on the pile, call a time-out and use the bathroom scales to weigh the books.

When I do this lesson with Grade 4 students, we focus on the scientific method.  Afterward, the teachers usually have the children write up the experiment using the scientific method template they’ve been working with in class.  My Grade 2s typically do not write up experiments, but they certainly can weigh the books and record their findings.

If your kids will be doing a write-up, instruct the children to return to their seats and use the teacher’s scribed notes.  At a minimum, Grade 2 children could write the:

  • Question (Example: How strong are eggshells?)
  • Hypothesis (Example: The eggshells can hold ten books.)
  • Conclusion or Findings (Example: The eggshells held 50 books!)

3. Conclusion:

If you have not done so already, take a group photo of the kids standing behind the books piled on top of the eggs.  Ask them if they enjoyed today’s experiment with library books and challenge them to find another experiment that they can do with library books.

Resources:
  1. Low table in the center of the class carpet area.  (Experiment will be done on this table.)
  2. Four fresh eggs, roughly the same size.
  3. Eight plastic, screw-on bottle caps, all the same size.
  4. Plastic sheeting, tablecloth, or protective covering
  5. Cardboard piece large enough to span all four eggs when they are in place.
  6. Books from the classroom library.
  7. Bathroom scale to weigh the books after the experiment.
  8. Camera to photograph the experiment.
  9. Sample lesson with photos: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/eggshell-strength-experiment-kids-stem-activity/   (This lesson uses three eggs, but I prefer to use four.)
  10. (Optional) Scientific Method graphic organizers, one for each child. Use whichever one the teacher is using for the unit.  You can find a free one here:  Free Scientific Method Graphic Organizer
Notes:

I have found that when working with full classes, it helps to assign each student a number.   This way you can make sure that all the children have an equal chance to participate.  Move in number order asking questions and having students take turns putting books on the pile.  For example, “Student #1, please spread the plastic sheeting over the table.  Students #2, 3, 4, and 5, set up one egg on top of one bottle cap.  Students #6, 7, 8, and 9, put the second bottle caps on top of the eggs.  Student #10, please position the eggs at the points of an imaginary rectangle, roughly the size of a book.  Student #11, please add the cardboard platform on top of the four eggs.”

Many versions of this experiment are available online.  Feel free to compare them.  I prefer the experiment using whole eggs, but there are sources which ask you to crack the eggs in half or punch a small hole and remove the contents of the egg.  I prefer using fresh, raw, untouched eggs simply because it’s less preparation for me.

We have found that the eggs easily support over 14 kilograms or 30 pounds.  I’ve had one class get the weight to 24 or 25 kilograms, which is as much as an airline suitcase.  The eggs are shockingly strong, so you don’t need to be afraid that the eggs are going to break early.

Recommended books for this lesson:

None

Key Terms:

Eggshells, Strength, Experiments, Scales, Hypotheses, Scientific Method

Eggshells and Books

 

Forces and Simple Machines #3: Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Lesson Overview:

In this unit, the students have been learning about forces and simple machines.  They “tuned in” using the work of Chris Van Dusen and a naughty bear after a bag of marshmallows.  Next, they took notes from a digital information source, then built and flew their own paper airplanes.  Today, they’ll use another text to take an historical view of forces and simple machines.  Traveling back through time to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, students will discover the real story behind the world’s first Ferris Wheel!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Objective:

Using their notes, students will be able to retell the story of the invention of the world’s first Ferris Wheel.  (AASL 2.3.1, “Connect understanding to the real world.”)

Suggested Time:

35-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Using his or her notes for prompts, each student will be able to retell the story of the invention of the first Ferris Wheel.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the children how much fun simple machines and basic forces can be.  Last week they folded and flew their own paper airplanes.  Today, they will get to find out about one of the most popular amusement park rides, the Ferris Wheel.  The name of the ride even gives away one of the simple machines used in its design!

Ask the students how many of them have ever been to an amusement park.  Ask how many have ridden on a Ferris Wheel.  For those who have ridden on a Ferris Wheel, ask them to share or describe their experiences.

Explain that before finding out about the Ferris wheel, though, we need a bit of background.  Together, we actually need to travel back in time!  Ask the children to look at two images. (Point to the Eiffel Tower and Home Insurance Building pictures that should be hung in the room before the lesson.  See attached files for the images.)

  • Ask the students: Would you believe me if I told you that the Eiffel tower is the tallest building in the world?  Have you seen a building taller the Eiffel tower?  Where?  Are you sure?
  • Ask the students: Would you believe me if I told you that the ten-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago is the tallest skyscraper in the world?  Have you seen a taller skyscraper?  Where?

Tell the children that if they want to learn about the Ferris Wheel, they have to imagine a time in which the Eiffel Tower in Paris was the tallest building and the Home Insurance Building in Chicago was the tallest skyscraper!  If they can imagine that, then they are ready to learn about the Ferris Wheel.

2. Main:

Teach Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford.  The students will have questions.  Scribe those on a flipchart or whiteboard for further inquiry.  Always keep track of the kids’ questions so that they can follow up and find out more.

Check for understanding by asking questions such as:

  • Why did the judges say “No” to all of the tower designs for the 1893 World’s Fair?  (Answer: They were too much like the Eiffel Tower, and the design judges were looking for something different.)
  • How was Mr. Ferris’ idea different?  (Answer: Ferris’ great structure would move!)
  • Why didn’t bankers and the World’s Fair officials support Mr. Ferris?  (Answer: They thought that the plan would never succeed!)
  • Why didn’t Mr. Ferris give up, especially after he got so little support for his plan?  (Answer: He was confident in his design and calculations and the engineering work behind them.)
  • What two simple machines are the fundamental design for a Ferris Wheel?  (Answer: Wheel and axle.)
  • What structure from Mr. Ferris’ childhood inspired him to build a giant wheel?  (Answer: Waterwheel.)
  • What material can make structures both strong and light?  (Answer: Steel)

Once you are certain that the children understand the story and basic history of the Ferris Wheel, give them the assignment sheets.  Go over the instructions and give them about ten minutes to complete the written assignment.

3. Conclusion:

Show the National Geographic video so that the kids can answer the last few questions on the assignment sheet.  Go over the answers with them and let them check their own or a partner’s work.  Emphasize how exciting simple machines can be and challenge the children to find other stories and information books in the library that include these ideas.

Resources:
  1. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford.
  2. National Geographic Video about Ferris Wheels, found here: National Geographic Kids, Ferris Wheel Video (1:07)
  3. Eiffel Tower Graphic (attached)
  4. Home Insurance Building Graphic (attached)
  5. Student assignment sheet (attached)
Notes:

I looked for a long time to try to come up with a way for the children to make a simple Ferris Wheel.  Making one would be a far better experience for them than drawing one!  However, I didn’t find anything I felt was simple enough for Early to Middle Elementary students to manage independently.  If you find a design that the kids can complete, more or less on their own, please let me know.

If you are fortunate enough to teach this lesson at the beginning of a forces unit, perhaps you can use the maker space over the course of the unit and include a Ferris Wheel making project.

The lesson is even more effective when taught after a visit to an amusement park.  In both of my elementary schools, students have taken a field trip to a local amusement park to look for simple machines and forces on the rides and attractions.  If you teach this lesson just after the field trip, you’ll have a captive audience!’

Recommended books for this lesson:

Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford

Key Terms:

Wheels, Axles, Ferris Wheels, Chicago, World’s Fair, George Ferris

 

Eifel Tower

Home Insurance Building

Student Handout, Ferris Wheel

Forces and Simple Machines #2: Paper Airplanes

Lesson Overview:

Building on last week’s “Tuning In” work, today’s lesson looks at the forces of flight.  Using a short video from DK Find Out, a simple handout for taking notes, and a bit of colored paper, students put the forces to the test by folding and flying their own paper airplanes.  This lesson requires very little preparation, it’s easy to teach, and the fun rating is off-the-charts.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

All

Objective:

Identify the four forces that influence flight.  Following instructions, build a paper airplane and fly it.  Write at least two sentences using the new vocabulary to describe the airplane’s flight.  (AASL 2.3.1, “Connect understanding to the real world.”)

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will accurately record the four forces that act on airplanes.  Then, students will build their own paper airplanes, fly them, and write a few sentences to describe their test flights.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Explain that today’s lesson will build on last week’s lesson, which looked at simple forces.  Remind the students that last week they went camping with Mr. Magee, in the mountains, with a cute dog and a problematic bear.  Explain that today, instead of looking at a story, the class will use a short information video.

Explain that today’s lesson has four short parts:

  1. Watch an information video and record the forces that affect an airplane or a paper plane.
  2. Build a paper airplane.
  3. Fly the paper airplane.
  4. Write a few sentences, using the special vocabulary about forces, to describe the flights of the planes.

2. Main:

Pass out the student assignment sheet.  Make sure that everyone has a pencil to write with.

Play the short video about the forces of flight, found on DK Find Out, here: DK Find Out, How to Make a Paper Plane

Review the material with the students.  Make sure that they understand and can spell the new vocabulary: Gravity, Thrust, Lift, and Drag.  Check to ensure that the students’ diagrams are labeled correctly.

Ask questions to check for understanding:

  • What force pushes the airplane forward?  (Answer: Thrust)
  • What force pulls the airplane towards the earth?  This force has to be overcome so that the airplane stays in the air.  (Answer: Gravity)
  • What force pulls the airplane upwards?  (Answer: Lift)
  • What force gives a bit of friction, pushing back on the airplane as it flies?  (Answer: Drag)

Note that these are still “pushes” and “pulls” but that they have special names when applied to aircraft.

Once the students’ notes are complete, give each student a piece of colored paper to fold into an airplane.   Review how to fold an airplane based on the instructions in the video.  Some students may want to fold according to their own designs, and that is fine.

After each student completes a folded airplane, tell them that they’ll need to carefully watch their planes so that they can make sentences describing the thrust, drag, lift, and gravity.  Take them outside to fly the planes for a few minutes.  If you used colored paper, you could try managing the activity by having all the blue planes line up and fly first, yellow second, red third, etc.  Do this so that every child gets to fly two or three times before returning to write the descriptive sentences.

3. Conclusion:

Make sure that each student writes at least two sentences using the new vocabulary of “drag, lift, gravity, and thrust.”  Encourage simple sentences such as:

Sample 1:  “There was a lot of wind today, which increased the drag on my plane.”

Sample 2:  “The shape of my wings helped give my plane a good bit of lift.”

Once the students complete the writing part of the lesson, they should tidy up and put their written work in their Unit of Inquiry notebooks.  If there is any additional time, I’m sure they’ll want to conduct a few more test flights!

Resources:
  1. DK Find Out Video Segment on the Forces of Flying and Paper Airplanes, found here: DK Find Out, How to Make a Paper Plane
  2. Student assignment sheet (attached).
  3. Pencils
  4. Paper for building paper airplanes
  5. Access to a place to fly the planes, outdoors if possible.
Notes:

None

Recommended books for this lesson: 
  1. Paper Airplanes, Flight School Level 1 by Christopher Harbo
  2. Paper Airplanes, Copilot Level 2 by Christopher Harbo
  3. Paper Airplanes, Pilot Level 3 by Christopher Harbo
  4. Paper Airplanes, Captain Level 4 by Christopher Harbo
Key Terms:

Forces, Gravity, Lift, Drag, Thrust, Airplanes, Paper Airplanes

Student Handout, Paper Airplanes

Forces and Simple Machines #1: A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn to recognize forces and simple machines in a delightful storybook.  Chris Van Dusen is a masterful storyteller and illustrator, and the kids are immediately hooked by the rhymes, illustrations, and then the unbelievable storyline!  Don’t be fooled – forces and simple machines are serious business.  But, they’ve never been more fun as when they come into play on a camping trip with lovable Mr. Magee.  Share and teach this gorgeous picture book, then have the children write their own book identifying the forces in the story.  The class will have a fabulous piece of work as evidence of learning, and you’ll introduce them to a new author and illustrator at the same time.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

2-3

Objective:

Given a picture or story, identify basic forces and simple machines.  Also, as a class, write a book showing understanding of basic forces and simple machines.  (AASL 2.3.1, “Connect understanding to the real world.”)

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Every student will understand and be able to discuss the forces in Chris Van Dusen’s A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.  The class will also create their own book that highlights forces and simple machines in Mr. Van Dusen’s work.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Hold up a copy of Mr. Van Dusen’s book, A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.

Make a text-to-self connection by asking a few of these questions:

  • How do you prepare to go camping?
  • What might you take with you on a camping trip?
  • Where do people usually camp?
  • Where do you sleep if you are camping?
  • What dangers do you have to consider while you are camping?

2. Main:

Teach the text, and children will listen to understand the story.  Using questions, check for basic understanding of the setting, plot, and characters (literacy tie and review).

Next, think about forces and see whether any forces can be identified in the story.  Pass out the story cards – each student receives one.  Let the students talk to peers for five to seven minutes to talk about the pictures and try to work out the forces and basic machines they can see in the pictures.

Draw the kids back to the carpet and have the students make their own notes on the handout while a teacher scribes their responses onto the PowerPoint presentation.  (Next to each picture is a text box.)  The PowerPoint presentation is evidence of class learning during this lesson and can be shared in a class Weebly or a digital portfolio.

3. Conclusion:

Forces are all around us and are fun to discover!

  • Challenge the kids to look for simple machines and basic forces in other stories.
  • Challenge the children to look for simple machines and basic forces in our library!
  • Challenge the students to retell the story to a parent or sibling this evening.
Resources:
  1. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen.
  2. Pencils
  3. Clipboards or writing surface
  4. Story Cards (see attached photo).
  5. PowerPoint presentation template, attached, that you’ll use when the class writes their own book. All photos embedded in the PowerPoint were taken from Mr. Van Dusen’s book, so be sure to buy the book!  Please save your own copy, then take out my students’ work.  I left their work in as a sample so that you can see some of the things that children will come up with.
Notes:

If your kids do not know Mr. Van Dusen,  they will after this lesson!  Buy every book you can get your hands on that Mr. Van Dusen has worked on, including the Mercy Watson series.

Normally I would not prepare story cards for a Unit of Inquiry/Literature Link lesson.  But, one time that I last taught this lesson coincided with a government inspection of our school.  So, the lesson was a bit over-prepared!  The lead teacher in Grade 2 also made a Word Mat to help EAL children with some of the unit vocabulary.  However, I have not included that here.  Your unit vocabulary may be different, but by all means, if you have a high EAL student population, a Word Mat would help.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen.

Key Terms:

Forces, Simple Machines, Push, Pull, Gravity, Wheels, Axles, Wedges, Inclined Planes, Bears, Camping, Chris Van Dusen, Marshmallows

Story Cards, Forces and Simple Machines

PowerPoint Template, Forces and Simple Machines

Forming Questions #1: How Many Questions Can You Make?

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children are challenged to make as many questions as they can about an unfamiliar object to find out more about it.  Because it is easier to ask questions about a concrete object, I use six unfamiliar objects to spur their thinking.  The kids always want answers, but this lesson is about questions!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

4-5

Objective:

Develop a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.  (AASL 1.1.3, “Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.”)

Suggested Time:

50-60 minutes

Success Criteria:

Working in groups, students develop and write questions about an unfamiliar object.  Students will record their questions and then compare them with questions generated by other teams.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Asking and answering questions enables us to learn about any subject.  Much of what our communities need has never been done before.  Becoming a skilled question-asker enables one to participate actively in seeking to understand and find solutions.  But . . . .

To write good questions, you need to know how to use question words.  In English, these words are . . . .  (children will tell you.)  Answer:  Who, What, Why, When, How.  You may also know these words in another language.  Ask a few students to give you the question words in their mother tongues, if appropriate.  Ask the children to keep the question words in mind throughout the lesson – they will need them!

Remember that it is also possible to make a question by starting your sentence with a helping verb.  Examples: “Is it . . . . .,” “Does it . . . . . . “  “Can you . . . . . ?” etc.

2. Main:

Begin the lesson by showing one of the unfamiliar objects.  Ask the students what they would like to know about this object.  As they tell you, ask the teacher to scribe the kids’ questions.  Be sure that they use each of the question words at least once.  This short discussion will model what the groups will do next.

Ask children to move to tables and sit in groups of four.  You may need to assign groups to make this transition move more smoothly.  Give each group an unfamiliar object.

Task:  Write as many questions as you can that, if answered, would help you learn about this object.  Record these on the back of your assignment sheet.

Each student does his/her own writing but the students within each group should discuss and help each other.

After about five minutes, say that the groups should be able to get at least 30 questions.  Give a warning after 12 minutes and call “Time” after about 15 minutes.  (Adjust timings to suit your own schedule.)

Bring kids back to carpet or together as a class to wrap up.

3. Conclusion:

Ask teams to give you some of their questions.  Have groups compare their work as each team takes it in turns to call out one of their questions.

Clap for the team with the most questions.  Clap for the most original question or the most insightful question.

Challenge:  Ask students to try to see how many questions they can ask at home this evening and how long it will take them, using this technique, for their parents to ask, “What’s up with all the questions??”

Resources:
  1. Question Word “poster.” See attached photo for a suggestion.
  2. Unfamiliar objects, as many as six. See attached photo for a few suggestions.
  3. Student Handout (attached)
Notes:

Students sometimes get “stuck” in their thinking and need to be nudged by a teacher to try using a different question word or to think about another aspect of the object.  If you need to give hints, hints might include:

  1. Ask about the origin of the object.
  2. Ask about the use of the object.
  3. Ask about the composition of the object.
  4. Ask about the dangers of the object.
  5. Ask about the value of the object.
  6. Ask about the physical characteristics of the object.
  7. Ask about whether the object changes.

Draw on the PYP Key Concepts of Form, Function, Causation, Change, Connection, Perspective, Reflection, and Responsibility.  If the students are familiar with these key concepts, they should be able to generate quite a few questions.

I’ve taught this lesson many times and the students generally get a charge out of making the questions.  I find that they are slow to start, but get the hang of it quickly.  The emphasis of this lesson is volume – we want the kids to generate a lot of questions quickly.  This is an exercise, but if they can become confident question askers, their questions will guide inquiry.  I usually work with fourth grade or older, but I think that younger children could do this exercise as well.

Recommended Books for this lesson:

None

Key Terms:

Questions, Inquiry

Question Word Poster

Unfamiliar Objects

Student Handout, How Many Questions