Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Forces That Move Us

Student teams in the process of creating their castles

I wanted to give my students an exciting science project to work on that would require them to apply all the team building skills they had developed during the year. My last unit in Science was Forces and Motion, so I decided that since my students are into fantasy, each team would need to create a castle, out of everyday "junk”, that uses forces, motion and six simple machines in its design.

I introduced the concept of forces and motion with the first chapter in the book, A Crash Course in Forces and Motion with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Emily Sohn. The graphics and fast paced text kept my 4th graders engaged as we read about a superhero who uses the amusement park to explain the science behind forces and motion. I also purchased the Audible Audio Edition of the book for $2.95, which was used in a center, along with the book, as a way of reinforcing their learning.

Before listening to the first chapter, I asked my students, "Think about your favorite amusement park ride. What are some words to describe how you move when you are on that ride?" As they shared their responses, I asked, "What is the ride doing? What is happening to your body? How does it make you feel?"

The students were equipped with pencils, paper and clipboards. Their job was to write down science words as they were introduced in the story. I asked them to raise their hand when they heard a word and I would stop reading while we all jotted the words down on our paper.

We discussed our word list and narrowed it down to words that supported the concept of force and motion. Then, we counted up the number of words we had left and created a 3/4 Book Foldable® out of yellow copy paper for each word. Students wrote the word on the outside of the tab and we talked about what we remembered from the book. Students stored their 3/4 Books in Ziploc baggies.

Science instruction for the next few weeks focused on students gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts introduced through the Max Axiom book. Students learned about force, push, pull, gravity, friction, inertia, and acceleration as they hunted for examples around the school, performed simple physics experiments and used print and multimedia as resources. As students learned the concepts they filled in the remaining spaces on the 3/4 Book Foldables® with the following: Under the tab, a definition. Below the definition, real-life examples. To the left of the tab, a labeled picture.

After the students learned about the forces and motion concepts, we moved on to simple machines. Students had already been introduced to a few of the simple machines when they constructed force and motion science kits purchased from the Eli Whitney Museum website. They continued to learn about the six simple machines, the ramp, the inclined plane, the lever, the pulley, the screw, and the wheel and axle through a Bill Nye video, EdHeads, BrainPop and their favorite online game, Twitch. Using green copy paper, they made a 3/4 Book Foldable® for each simple machine, writing the name of the machine on the outside, a sentence underneath, examples, and a picture. All of the 3/4 Book Foldables®, the yellow forces and motion words and the green simple machine words, were glued side-by-side and bound together with a strip of scrap booking paper.

Finally it was time to do the culminating team project, the castles. Students referred to their 3/4 side-by-side Books as they created a castle that used all six simple machines.

Check out Dinah-Might Adventures for directions for the 3/4 Book Foldable®and other Foldable® ideas.


  1. Love all the foldable ideas! I am awarding you The Versatile Blogger award! : )

  2. Thank you, Heather! We love your blog, too. We will post things about ourselves and our Versatile Blogger Award picks soon! Keep on folding!