Friday, July 25, 2014

3rd Grade Machine Brains

Do you know who Rube Goldberg is? If you do, you're cool in my book. If you don't, you will quite soon. This project was originally written by a colleague of mine, but I took it, added to it, and adapted it to my own curricular needs. It was originally written to fit in with the science curriculum (learning about simple machines) in third grade. That curriculum has since changed, but this project keeps on rockin' because it's too cool not to do. 

Rube Goldberg is now the main inspiration for this lesson. I still hit the simple machines pretty hard, but my students think Goldberg's cartoons are hilarious. His fantastically complicated machines are still a source of inspiration for competitions, Mythbusters, and YouTubers. They are all about cause and effect and make sneaky use of science and physics.
A classic example of a Rube Goldberg comic.
 Another source of inspiration for this project is a music video by the band OKGO that was created as a massive Rube Goldberg machine. The band is known for making incredibly creative music videos, including this super rad one that was released recently.

Finally, it comes down to making cool art. Each student spends a ton of time brainstorming and sketching for this project. I challenge them to design a machine that does something that happens in their heads. (Blinking, thinking, chewing, making boogers, etc.) They are required to have at least eight steps and at least four simple machines in their work. I use a projector (just shooting a white screen) to trace the students' silhouettes, then they use construction paper to make the rest of the project. I want at least 95% of the project to be made from the construction paper. I think the project turns out really cool and it really makes students think. I swear I saw some smoke coming out of a few kids' heads this year.  


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this idea. I am going to use it in my class. Fantastic blog thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful ideas. So excited to try this brain machines!

Thanks Ms N, Sydney Australia :)

PinkElefant Art said...

this is so interesting, how long does it take to complete?

Zach Stoller said...

From beginning sketches to final art, this project is pretty long. I'd say 5-6 45 minute classes at least. My students stay really engaged, so I encourage them to get as creative as possible.