Experiments In Science- Incline Plane Edition


I think simple machines make some of the most interesting science experiments with young kids because they can do all of the work (unlike many chemistry/mixing experiments where a lot of what they can do is watch and observe...which don't get me wrong is cool too).

Today we switched over from our work in classification, into a unit on simple machines. I have several pictures, a video, and I'll try to add in presentation information if you would like to try this on your own.

Flat piece of wood (I used a piece of a shelf)
Tin foil
A blanket
Variety of objects- at least one thing round or with wheels, at least one type of block, and at least one stuffed animal or cloth toy


1. Hold the piece of wood on your lap and ask your children to describe what they see and feel. Tell them that this piece of wood is called a plane. A plane is a flat surface. The floor is a plane, the wall is a plane. Ask the children to look around the room and see if they can find any other examples of planes.

2. Create an incline plane by putting one end of the board on your lap and the other on the ground. Tell your children that now it is an incline plane.

3. Invite them to take turns placing different objects on the ramp and observing what happens.


4. Ask, "I wonder why some things go faster than other things?" Allow some time for thoughts/answers.

5. Explain that there is an invisible force called friction. It is like the wind. We can't see it, but we know it is there because we can see the trees moving or feel it on our face. We can't see friction, but we know it is there by watching the way things move on the incline plane. Friction helps things hold on to stay in one place. Some things have more friction than others.

6. Repeat step 3. Ask for ideas on which objects have more friction. (Hint: the objects that move the most slowly have the most friction)

7. Suggest there may be other ways to test for friction. Adjust the height of the incline from very low to very high. Observe again.

8. Suggest another way to change the effects of friction. Note that you have changed the type of objects and the height of the incline. Now you are going to change the surface of the incline. Cover the surface with a piece of tin foil that has been crinkled and then smoothed flat again to make a bumpy surface. Observe again.

Aidan observed that even though our smallest pink tower cube did not move on a low setting, he could make it move by blowing on it.

9. Cover the surface with a blanket and observe again. Be sure to experiment with high and low ramp heights. During our experiment, Aidan's stuffed elephant hung on at a very steep height!


10. Allow more time for independent observation and experimentation. Be be prepared for some discoveries by even your youngest student.


11. Provide follow up by leaving the materials available to use again and have students draw a picture or write a journal entry to demonstrate friction.

Don't forget your camera because you will be sure to capture some great shots of learning in action!



Evenspor said...

Hiya. You mentioned doing other things with the red rods besides the stair and maze. I dont know any other extensions. Could you do a post on that or do you already have one?

Anonymous said...

Here's a site that I think our readers might enjoy. It is called MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids (www.meetmeatthecorner.org)

This series of free educational video pod casts is directed at kids ages 7-12. Each three-minute episode includes links to fun websites, a list of recommended books and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about the topic.
New episodes are uploaded every two weeks. On 1/18 there will be an episode about Everyday Physics from the New York Hall of Science. On February 1, there's a show about Thomas Edison filmed at the new Thomas Edison Museum in West Orange New Jersey. And later in February, there is an episode on how to prepare for your school science fair.

Amanda said...

SOOO smart!! You are my favorite. :)


Anonymous said...

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