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Inventions and Simple Machines Presentations and Field Trip Ideas

Updated on May 20, 2016
iijuan12 profile image

I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Presentation on Karl Benz, inventor of the first automobile
Presentation on Karl Benz, inventor of the first automobile

For the presentations following our 6 part hands-on unit on Inventions and Simple Machines, each child presented on a famous inventor. Following presentations, they sang the "Simple Machines" song and then ate a simple machine-themed lunch together (recipes are provided). I have also included where our family when on field trips during this unit. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, or co-op!

Inventor Presentations

For our end of the unit project, please have your child present on his/her assigned inventor. Dressing up as the inventor, bringing props (recreations of his/her inventions), and/or drawings are optional but will make the presentation more memorable.

Assigned Inventors:

Eli Whitney

John Deere

Samuel Colt

Elias Howe

Samuel F.B. Morse

Alexander Graham Bell

Thomas Edison

Karl Benz

Charles Babbage

John Holland

Henry Ford

Orville and Wilbur Wright

George Eastman

Our Favorite Books & Series on Individual Inventors

Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin (Inventions and Discovery)
Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin (Inventions and Discovery)

My boys love this series that presents historically-accurate information in a comic book format. My 8 year old also always reads a chapter book biography on each person, and usually the chapter books provide little more additional information than we already got from the books in this series. Also look for the ones in this series on Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, and George Eastman. We own all of these books, and they're frequently the ones my sons pull off the bookshelf each night before bed.

Listen Up!: Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine (Step into Reading) by Monica Kulling
Listen Up!: Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine (Step into Reading) by Monica Kulling

More Great Picture Book Biographies on Inventors

Listen Up!: Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine (Step into Reading) by Monica Kulling and the other Step into Reading easy reader biography books Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race and First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers are wonderful! The illustrations keep the attention of my 3 and 5 year olds and they provide enough information that my 8 year old is still learning from them. Monica Kulling has written a number of wonderful picture book biographies about great inventors as part of the Great Idea Series. Some titles include It's a Snap!: George Eastman's First Photo , In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up, All Aboard!: Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine, and others.

Simple Machines Song

2. Sing The Simple Machines Song

When it's moved by force we call it work,
but here's what I've been told:
Use any simple machine to help and ease that heavy load.

Wheel and axle, pulley, wedge
Screw, inclined plane, lever
When you learn to use simple machines
You'll show you are so clever.

The inclined plane is like a ramp,
a ladder, stairs, or hill.
Increase the distance = reduce the work.
Mechanical Advantage thrill.

The wedge is used to separate,
lift, or hold in place.
You use a wedge to cut your cakes,
Long and narrow = less force it takes.

Our levers come three different ways,
depending on the fulcrum.
Lift, squeeze, cut, pull, haul, or toss
to get all of that work done.

The screw just turns to do its job
- like opening your juice.
Or use the screw to hold things tight,
so that they won't get loose.

The wheel and axle turns around
to help you get things going:
Uphill, downhill, straight ahead,
your force or distance growing.

The pulley uses cord or ropes
or even chains or strings.
Pull longer distance with less force
To lift enormous things.

Image credit:
Image credit:

Lunch and Simple Machines Recipes

After the presentations, we ate a potluck lunch together. If desired, you can make inventor/simple machine-themed foods. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Screw-Shaped Pasta (Rotini) Salad

Light Bulb Cookies

Tuna and Wheel and Axle Shaped Pasta (Rotelle) Salad

Extra Cheesy Mozzarella Wedges

Chocolate Wagon Wheel Cookies

Carrot and Celery Stick Levers (No Recipe Needed)

Field Trips

Field Trips

As a family we went to our state state history museum that includes many machines of earlier eras on which we were able to easily identify many simple machines. My boys especially loved the orange packing machine. We got to do some chores on a working 1800's-era farm. The boys got to really feel how screws and wheels and axles help with work as they ground corn and ran wet laundry through a wringer. We also went to our Museum of Art and Science which has many fun simple machine demos like a lever tug-of-war game and a pulley chair that allows you to lift yourself.

Looking for the lessons?

Marshmallow Catapult from the lesson on Levers (Part 2 of 5)
Marshmallow Catapult from the lesson on Levers (Part 2 of 5)

Race cars down ramps as you study inclined planes and wedges, build and test catapults as you study levers and screws, create waterwheels as you study wheels and axles, lift each other using pulleys as you study gears and pulleys, use static electricity lift hair and separate salt and pepper as you study electricity, devise Rube Goldberg machines to place toothpaste on a toothbrush without touching either one, present on famous inventors, and more during this exciting 5 part hands-on unit study on simple machines and inventions!

  • Inclined Planes and Wedges Lesson - This is part 1 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Simple Machines and Inventions. Race cars down ramps, compare carrying luggage to pulling it up an inclined plane, slice through apples using wedges, and more!
  • Lever and Screw Simple Machines Lesson - This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit on inventions and simple machines. Build and test catapults, lift an adult using a lever, test out screws of various threads, and more!
  • Wheels and Axles Lesson - This is part 3 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Inventions and Simple Machines. Build and test waterwheels, use cylinders to make wheel cookies, experiment with matchbox cars to demonstrate friction, compare the mechanical advantage of an adult and a child's bicycle, and more!
  • Gears and Pulleys Simple Machines Lesson - This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on inventions and simple machines. Build and test pulleys, play pulley tug-of-war, find out how a clock works, and more!
  • Electricity Lesson - This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on inventions and simple machines. Watch static electricity lift hair and separate salt and pepper, build and test circuits and switches using household materials, play an electron game to demonstrate how electricity is conducted.
  • Inventions and Simple Machines Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - Included are the presentations on famous inventors our students created following our 5 part hands-on unit on Inventions and Simple Machines. They also sang the Simple Machines song and ate a simple machine-themed lunch. (Recipes are provided.) Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.

We really enjoyed Bill Nye's Video on Simple Machines. This is a short clip from it.

Who do you think was the most important inventor?

See results
Konos Volume III
Konos Volume III

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2011 Shannon

Who do you think is/was the greatest inventor of all time and why? - Or just let me know you dropped by. I love getting feedback from you!

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    • I-sparkle profile image


      8 years ago

      This has to be one of the best interactive teaching programs that I have seen. Great work on this lens. Much continued success.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      8 years ago from Royalton

      I love the simple machines song as well as the simple machines recipes. Hands-on learning is the most memorable kind of learning.


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