From Machines to Movement

Do you know what a Rube Goldberg machine does? Members of Class 3 certainly do!

A Rube Goldberg machine is comprised of chain reactions caused by simple machines. These machines typically consist of seemingly unrelated devices, with the action of each triggering the initiation of the next and resulting in the completion of a simple goal. For example, a cup is knocked over, causing a marble to roll down a flat surface, then hit a light switch and cause the light to turn on.

As a culminating engineering project in Science, Class 3 students designed their own Rube Goldberg contraption to solve a daily problem in their life. They were asked to use at least three of the six simple machines they had studied, which were a lever, pulley, wedge, screw, wheel/axel and inclined plane.

With their creativity shining through, the Class 3 engineers fashioned machines out of cardboard, plastic cups, toilet paper rolls, and other household items. Their impressive machines were built to complete various tasks, such as pouring juice into a cup, ringing an alarm clock, turning on lights, or opening a cabinet for candy.

To complement this robust lesson, students combined their scientific knowledge and artistic skills by translating their machines into dances with Lower School Dance teacher Susan Strong. Spread out in the LS Dance studio in their designated groups, with their machines on display in front of them, the students pondered how they could recreate the mechanisms with their bodies.

They were instructed to include dance elements they had studied, such as cannon, ABA pattern form, varying energies (light, heavy, slow and quick), locomotor and non-locomotor movements to represent at least four simple machines.

As they worked together diligently, identifiable movements began to emerge. In one corner, two students held hands and leaned back and forth to replicate a pully. In another, a trio twirled in opposite directions to represent screws. Other students spun, leapt and rolled around the room to depict the turning of specific materials.

The dancers changed levels to indicate a falling piece of machinery or to show the movement of a ball – some groups even opted to include a physical ball into their routines – and used their arms, legs, hands and feet in numerous creative ways. Their joy was on clear display as the studio filled with scholarly conversations, laughter and fun.

Ms. Strong observed the students’ intuitive minds at work throughout multiple classes as they explored ways to translate their machines into movement. “There’s a lot of problem solving involved,” she remarked. “It’s a great age-appropriate lesson and the students really love it.”

“They’re really connecting the scientific terms to their movement,” she continued. “It’s great to see!”

Once the groups were content with their dances and finished with revisions, they recorded the routine with their iPads. As the animated class came to end, Ms. Strong explained that each video will be accessible through a QR code that she creates and will live on their respective machines. With that, the students shuffled out, ready for a well-deserved winter break!