Pulleys, Pinecones, & Planets!

The past two weeks have been p-p-p-pretty exciting. Last week, we introduced two simple machines: the wheel and the pulley. We discussed how machines make work easier. Getting to “work,” the students used strong muscles to push a heavy jug of water back and forth across the table. It was difficult because the bottom of the jugs were rubbing against the table and causing lots of friction!

Next, we put the heavy jugs on top of wooden cylinder blocks and pencils. The jugs were much easier to push with the help of our first simple machine, the wheel.

The wheel made us work less because it reduced friction. Instead of the entire bottom of the jug rubbing against the table, the very bottom of the wheel was the only part that came into contact.

Moving on to our next simple machine, we observed that a pulley is a wheel plus a rope. After a demonstration of each, the students took turns exploring four pulley centers. The first one contained two pulley systems, a fixed pulley system (one pulley) and a block and tackle pulley system (two pulleys).

The students compared how much easier it was to lift the same water container using two pulleys verses one. More pulleys meant more machines doing work for us!

The second pulley station was a tall fixed pulley system. We loaded blocks into a net and pretended to lift those “building materials” to the construction crew on the roof.

The third station was another fixed pulley system hung from a rocket ship. We loaded up pretend presents to send to outer space.

At the clothesline pulley center, we placed toy animals into a bucket and helped them cross over the imaginary volcano safely. We took turns carefully pulling the line to pass the bucket back and forth.

In gardening, we talked about pinecones last week and this past Tuesday. Last week, we made pinecone bird feeders since birds have a harder time finding food in the winter. This week, we talked about seeds and recalled what a seed needs to grow—dirt, sun, water, and air. We read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle and discussed several different ways seeds move to get to a good spot to put down roots.

Then, we examined different types of seeds and investigated how their characteristics help them “move.” We compared sunflower seeds and pinecone seeds first. We observed sunflower seeds fall straight down when we dropped them, but pinecone seeds flutter in the air and fall slowly due to a small transparent coating shaped like a wing.

We explored what other seeds move easily in the wind—and we loved making the wind through our straws!

We even had seed races!

To see how seeds hitch a ride, we put socks on our hands and “walked” softly over the seeds. We noticed that the stickiest seeds were slightly prickly.

We guessed many ways that these seeds could move. They could get stuck to an animal’s fur or to our clothes or hair to travel somewhere new.

Finally, we tested to see whether seeds would float. Everyone made a hypothesis and everyone ending up being correct. Some seeds did float and some didn’t.

Parparim and VPK also made tiny seed pots out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls and planted seeds in them. We learned that cardboard is biodegradable, so we can plant the whole pot in the ground when the seed sprouts.

It was challenging to fold the cardboard but exciting when we figured it out!

We carefully filled them with dirt…


and we planted nasturtium seeds, which will grow into edible flowers. YUM!

3…2…1… Blast off! We went to outer space yesterday. The students entered the dark science room through a rocket ship.

We learned that there are 8 major planets in our solar system and they rotate around the sun. We pretended to be planets and walked in a circle just like we were in orbit. Afterward, the students studied the planets on the ceiling as we talked about why each planet was special.

We learned that Mercury is the closest to the sun and has no moons or rings. Venus is the hottest planet and only second to the moon as brightest in the night sky. Earth is the only planet with life. Mars is a small red planet with dust storms that can cover the whole planet. Jupiter is the largest and has storms much larger than Earth. Saturn has 150 moons. Uranus was the first planet discovered by telescope and Neptune spins very fast. Whew!

Doobonim pretended to be astronauts and got into the rocket ship, ready to blast off.

Kofim made outer space in bowls. They rolled yellow playdough into a sun and stuck it to the bottom of their black bowls.

Then, they rolled blue playdough into a small planet and made it rotate around the “sun.”

Parparim and VPK conducted an experiment to measure the distance of each planet from the sun. We used toilet paper squares as units of measurement. Practicing counting, we laid out the squares for each planet.

While Mercury was only 1 square away from the sun and the Earth was only 2.5 squares away, Neptune was 76!

Eek. That’s far! We decided if we visited there, we would turn into snowmen or popsicles.