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

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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:



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.
  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.

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