This is the second in our Simple Machines hands on science unit. We love combining books, hands on experiments, and printables to have FUN learning.

Simple Machine #2 – Wheel & Axle

A wheel and axel is a simple machine where a wheel turns around a bar to move objects.

They include things like sharpeners, doorknobs, Ferris Wheels, wheels on cars, flour grain, and more. Here are some of the books we read to prepare for our second week studying simple machines :

Simple Machines: Wheel Experiment

For one of our experiments I had the kids try to push a brick across the counter. They observed how the friction from the weight and the brick’s surface made it difficult. We briefly talked about how before we had modern machines it would have been very difficult to move large stones, but that it could be done. Then we read a couple books to explore:
• Stonehenge. England – they used lots to roll the heavy stones
• Pyramids, Egypt – they used inclined plains to move heavy stones

We attempted both methods and discovered for our purposes of moving over a flat surface rolling over “pencil” logs worked really well.  The logs were a version of a simple machine – the wheel.

Simple Machines: Balls and Wheels

We started off by rolling a Styrofoam ball. Balls roll in all different directions and aren't as easy to control. I asked the kids if a ball was different from a wheel.  Then I cut off the sides of the Styrofoam ball to show that wheels are really the centers of balls.

Love the light bulb that went on in their eyes!

Before I could even suggest it, my 3rd grader stuck a pencils through the middle and said – “Look Mom, I made an axel.” Someone was listening to the books we were reading! After having them push it around for a while we made a second Styrofoam wheel and joined it with the same axel. It was a lot easier to turn.

K’NEX Simple Machines

Last Christmas I found these K’Nex Education sets on super deal so we decided to try them out. We love Lego, but they are SO expensive. K'Nex are fun, easy to use, and great for teaching STEM; we have been so impressed with these K'Nex kits. The pieces are so versatile and the educational guide explains simple machine along with instructions to create 7 models.

Our favorites were the well (pictured at the top of the post – the kids played with it for hours) and the car with the working steering wheel.

I highly recommend the K’next Education Simple Machines: Wheel & Axel and Inclined Planes. It is such a great way for kids to be able to visually see and put into practice what they’ve learned. We are huge fans of hands on learning!

More FUN Science For Kids

Beth Gorden

Beth Gorden is a homeschooling mother of six who strives to enjoy every moment with her kids through hands-on learning, crafts, new experiences, and lots of playing together. Beth is also the creator and author of 123 Homeschool 4 Me where she shares 1000+ free printables, creative homeschool lessons, crafts, and other fun ideas to help preschool and homeschooling families have fun while learning and exploring together.