The above image comes from a cool little classroom website I found: Simple Machines Webquest – and I love it. I love this image so so much. It has everything you want in maker education – application of curricular outcomes, real ideas for authentic problems, improving upon ideas, and it’s tied together with a design concept sketch. Awesome!
Application of Curricular Outcomes: “But why do we have to learn this stuff?” – Our most/least favourite question… answered without the student even having to ask. “Because you never know when you need to solve the next big problem facing our world.”
Real Ideas for Authentic Problems: I can’t tell you how often I preferred to just leave my bed unmade as a child (unless Grandma was coming over… in which case it felt like I made my bed before I even woke up). This was a constant battle for me – and I’d have loved scheming up solutions for this problematic chore – even now I’m having fun dreaming up crazy bed making contraptions.
Rick Moranis’ character in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was an inventor who schemed up whacky solutions to everyday problems (shrinking children notwithstanding). I loved the movie for these quirky inventions (and, of course, the thought of being chased by gigantic ants). It’s the same reason I loved Goonies – that Rube Goldberg machine at the start of the movie had me hooked. Convoluted Contraptions are fun, exciting, entertaining, and even a little magical to children – why not let them in on the fun while learning?
Improving Upon Ideas: In my maker classroom wall, I have a poster of this robot from Invent to Learn (which, in my view, is mandatory reading for this interested in maker education). There’s an understanding that everything we make can be fixed or made better – that constant growth, tinkering, and improvement is all part of the Making process.
This bed making machine embraces that there has to be a better way to make the bed than to manually make it in the morning. Also, many other students learning simple machines would be able to find different ways to take this concept and improve upon it as well. It’s both the realization of an improvement and inspiration for future improvements!
Design Concept Sketch: This is such a fun part of the making process – after an idea is formed, but before the invention is physically built. It’s at the design concept sketch moment that the invention is a thing of beauty in our students’ minds. It works, it’s dazzling, it’s flawless – it’s in this instance where hopes and dreams are set in stone. So that
if when the first prototype fails – those involved have the persistence to keep on going. They have a goal to meet – and, by golly, they’re going to meet it. Don’t pass over this moment – it’s vital to the success of the project and to the mindset of the students!
MAKING WITH SIMPLE MACHINES
I am sure that you would be able to find a whole host of learning outcomes which can be tied into making with simple machines. There are many highly detailed lists online from better blogs and resources. But I do know that Simple Machines can relate to Math, Science, Language Arts, and even Social Studies classrooms. If pressed, we could connect with Music and Physical Education outcomes as well. The point is that if we want to embrace making in the classroom – there are so many ways to go about it – the least of your concerns should be “can I report on this?” – because you can. You always can find a way to report on the actual learning taking place. Instead of “how can I fit this in?”, your concern should be “How have I not made making a larger part of my program?”
But – if you need inspiration – there are great outcome applications shown in Audri’s Rube Goldberg Machine Video – statistics, hypothesizing, developing a story, using simple machines, and on and on… plus – the look on Audri’s face when his machine works is priceless. It’s that spark of invention, of discovery, of amazement, of pride – it’s why teachers do this work – to inspire success in our students.
Sometimes our students will want to make something just because they can. Whether it’s a highly sophisticated machine to make one’s bed – or an alarm clock that should never be set a second time! Just do it!