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This Simple Machines lesson focuses on Wheels and Axles




4, 5, 6  

Title – Simple Machines- Wheel and Axle
By – Bobbi Jo Clugh
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Art
Grade Level – 4-6
During Instruction – WHEEL AND AXLE

– Show short video clip*** (if available) as in introduction to the wheel and axle.

Sequence of Learning Activities:
– Students will discuss what was seen on the video clip.
– Students listen and take notes on their chart as the teacher gives a short lecture, lecture will include definitions, how a wheel and axle helps us, and examples of wheels and axles.
– Students will then get into groups for activities.
– Student will be shown the insides of a pencil sharpener, to show gears on a wheel and axle .
– Students will first be shown an example of a wheel and axle in which they will each make a pinwheel. For this activity, students will be given instructions on how to complete their pinwheel step-by-step, one pinwheel per group. The students will then try their pinwheels to see if they were assembled correctly. Teacher will be walking around to observe and help if necessary. Short discussion on finished product will occur, pointing out how the pinwheel works.
– Students will then be shown, in the second activity, an example of a waterwheel. In this example, students will gather around and observe a watermill already made by the teacher. The wheel and axle of the waterwheel will be pointed out and shown how it works. Teacher will aid if necessary.

– Teacher will once again review the vocabulary and how each example worked. Any questions students have will be answered. Also, go over rest of chart and ask if there are any questions or any blanks that they need filled.


Note: This lesson will take approximately one 90-minute class period to complete.

***The video used is: Schelessinger Science library, Physical Science for Children: All About Simple Machines***

Wheel and axle – a wheel with a rod or post through its center; both parts move together.
Axle – round post wheel turns around.
Gear – a wheel with teeth around its outer rim.

How a Wheel and Axle Helps Us:
Lifts or moves loads.

Tricycle wheel, bicycle wheel, roller blades/skates, car wheels, suitcase with wheels, wagon, pencil sharpener.

Demonstration #1

Pencil Sharpener

Pencil Sharpener

1. Tie string to pencil sharpener and to weight.
2. Hold pencil sharpener up (or collect around sharpener if attached to wall).
3. Begin to turn handle and watch how the weight moves and how the gears work together as the turning continues.

Demonstration #2


· Scissors
· Rulers
· Sheets of typing paper
· Pencil
· Large coin
· Paper hole punch
· Straw
· Modeling clay
· Sewing thread
· Paper clip

1. Cut a 6 in x 6 in square from a sheet of paper.
2. Draw two diagonal lines across the paper square so that you have an “X”.
3. Use a coin to draw a circle in the center of the square.
4. With a hole-punch, make one hole in each corner of the square as indicated in the diagram.
5. Make a hole through the center of the circle with the point of a pencil.
6. Use the scissors to cut the diagonal lines up to the edge of the circle in the center.
7. To form a paper wheel-of-sails, fold the corners with the holes over the center, one at a time, aligning all the holes with the hole in the center of the paper.
8. Push a drinking straw through the holes, and position the paper wheel in the center of the straw.
9. Wrap a small piece of clay around both sides of the straw next to the paper wheel to keep the wheel in place.
10. Collect a piece of sewing thread and attach one end of the string about two inches from one end of the straw. Tie the free end of the string to the paper clip.
11. Hold your hands upright in front of your face, with your thumbs pointing towards your body.
12. Cradle the ends of the straw in the grooves formed between your index fingers and thumbs. DO NOT grip the straw.
13. Blow toward the paper windmill, observe the movement of the paper wheel, straw and paper clip.

Demonstration #3


· Plastic Bottle
· Empty Thread Spool
· Index Cards
· Straw
· Tape
· String
· Paper Clip
· Sink
· Running Water

1. Cut the top half off of a plastic bottle and cut two notches, ½ in wide and 2 in deep, in the top edge of the plastic bottle directly across from each other.
2. Cut holes in the side, towards the bottom of the bottle, to allow water to flow out.
3. Construct a water wheel by gluing a series of paper blades cut from index cards to the body of an empty thread spool.
4. Push a straw through the center of the spool securing the spool to the straw with tape.
5. Cradle the ends of the straw in the cut-out sections at the top of the bottle.
6. Use tape to attach one end of a string to a paper clip and the free end to the straw.
7. Place the bottle in a sink, under a faucet and turn on a slow trickle of water. The water should hit against the paper blades.
8. The spool and straw will rotate and the string will wind around the pencil, lifting the paper clip.

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