Classroom Activity: Sketching Gadget Anatomy

Main Idea: Close observation and sketching lead to a better understanding of how machines work.

Learning Objectives:
Time: about 30 minutes with one machine per group

  1. Have students prepare to work in small groups (2-5).
  2. Provide each group with one machine to examine in detail. Suggest that students take turns operating the machine while the others watch to see how each part moves.
  3. Challenge each group with the following questions to encourage thought and discussion. Invite them to investigate their own questions as well.
    • What is the function of this machine?
    • How many moving parts does it have?
    • How are the moving parts connected to each other?
    • What does each moving part do in the machine?
    • Which parts are elements of machines?
  4. Place the machine at rest so that everyone in the group can see it and distribute paper, pencils and erasers.
  5. Students should begin sketching diagrams of their machines. They should draw the machine from their own point of view first. Later they can trade places and draw it from different points of view to show all working parts.
  6. When the diagrams are completed, students should add arrows and written notes to indicate directions of motion for each part, label the elements of machines involved, and explain connections.
  7. Have students display and explain their diagrams to other groups.
  8. If time permits, give each group a new machine to investigate and sketch.
Teacher Tips:
Real World Connections:

Ask students to get their parents involved in helping them locate examples of machine diagrams from home. The instructions provided by manufacturers with bicycles, kitchen appliances, tools, and lawn mowers often contain explanatory diagrams to help you understand these machines. Auto repair manuals also contain dozens of these diagrams. Many construction sets such as Lego® and K'NEX® also have similar kinds of diagrams to help you build particular toy designs.

When you have several diagrams from different sources, ask the students to compare them and discuss them using the following questions as starting points:

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