National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


Made to Move

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5

Estimated Time

2 hours


The purpose of this activity is for students to use simple machines to examine the relationships between force and motion. Students will complete a science journal and participate in group activities demonstrating the use of simple machines.


For each student:

  • Science journal (cover page and station worksheets stapled together)

For each station:

  • Station 1
    • Three books tied together with string
    • Large, sturdy rubber band
    • Ruler
    • Skateboard or similar object with wheels
  • Station 2
    • Ruler
    • Yardstick marked at 24 inches
    • Book tied with string
    • Large, sturdy rubber band
    • Metal bookend or some other object for a balance point (fulcrum)
  • Station 3
    • Apples (one per group)
    • Paper towels
    • Plastic knife or a metal apple cutter
  • Station 4
    • Two books tied together with string
    • Large, sturdy rubber band
    • String (three feet)
    • Pulley (or broom stick or long dowel) with string for hanging
  • Station 5
    • Books (at least five)
    • Large, sturdy rubber band
    • Ruler
    • Shoe box lid
    • Rock (about the size of a baseball) with string tied around it
  • Station 6
    • Screwdrivers
    • Several 1" screws
    • Several 1/2" thick pieces of wood
  • Station 7
    • Blocks of wood (two per group)
    • Grease (petroleum jelly)
    • Plastic knife
  • Station 8
    • Carpet piece
    • Book
    • Marbles

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


agriculture: the science, art, and business of food, fiber, and floral production. Includes the processes required to get a product from farm to market

energy: the ability to do work

force: a push or a pull

friction: a resistant force caused by rubbing

fulcrum: a pivot point on which a lever turns

lubricant: a substance such as oil or grease applied to an area to make objects move with less friction

movement: an action or activity

work: scientifically speaking, something that causes movement

Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson is part of a series called, Simple and Complex Machines Used in Agriculture. These lessons introduce students to the simple and complex machines used in their daily lives and in food and fiber production. Through a variety of hands-on activities, students create models of the six types of simple machines and discover the concepts of force and friction. The essential role of complex machines in people's daily lives and in agriculture is interwoven through a number of class and homework activities that incorporate cooperative learning, writing, mathematics, art, and drama. Together these activities are designed to stimulate creative thinking and motivate learning. Other related lessons include:

Prior to this lesson students should have a basic knowledge of the six simple machines. Machines involve the force of a push or pull. Machines cannot create energy; they use the energy available in an efficient way. Stored (potential) energy is converted to mechanical (kinetic) energy.

As energy is transformed from one form to another or transferred from one object to the next, some of it is converted into heat energy because of friction. Friction is the force between two surfaces that resists the motion of one object past another. Friction is useful when one does not want an object to slip. Friction is important when a tire rolls across a road, or sandpaper rubs across wood. Other times friction is less desirable. For example, the rubbing between metal in machine parts causes them to wear down or release heat in unwanted areas. The use of lubricants and ball bearings can reduce unwanted friction. Steel ball bearings often contain bone charcoal, a lubricant made from cattle. Machine lubricants come from many sources, including fossil fuels and inedible beef fats.

The station activities in this lesson allow your students to experience firsthand the six simple machines in action and the effect friction has on the efficiency of the machines. The students will also observe the effects of lubricants and ball bearings.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Prior to this lesson, your students should have a basic knowledge of simple machines. Show your students the three pictures found in the Essential Files. They can be printed or projected on a screen. Each picture contains a scenario on the farm where a simple machine can be used to complete a task.
  2. Allow students to use their knowledge to try to determine what kind of simple machine will help perform the work. There can be more than one correct answer. Use the pictures to stimulate discussion and interest. Although complex machines can be used, keep the discussion focused on simple machines.
    • Moving the baby calf: Placing the calf in a wheel barrel uses both a wheel and axle and a lever to lift the weight of the calf and move it to the new location.
    • Transporting grain to the silo: Grain is often moved from place to place with an auger. An auger is a rotating screw located inside a tube. As the screw rotates, the grain is moved up the tube and into the silo.
    • Transporting hay bales: Most large hay bales are lifted using a loader. Loaders use a lever to lift the bale. The bales are then loaded onto a trailer which uses wheels and axles. 


  1. Divide students into eight groups. Have students create their science journals for this lesson. This should include the title page and all of the station worksheets stapled together. It may also include blank pages for writing assignments prompted by you or your students.
  2. Place the station materials in eight locations around the room.
  3. Have the groups rotate from station to station every 15-20 minutes. Four rotations might be done one day and the rest another day. Set up the format to accommodate what works best for your classroom.
  4. Have the students complete each activity and worksheet at the appropriate station. Each worksheet contains directions for a self directed activity. Some guidelines for successful station work are described below:
    1. Preview the experiments with the students before they begin the station activities.
    2. Review your classroom expectations on cooperation, set-up, participation, and clean-up.
    3. Assign roles to each member in the group such as supply person and time monitor.
    4. Inform your students of the time, five minutes before changing stations.
  5. When the rotations are complete, direct a discussion about what the students discovered. Ask them to share their science journal writings with one another.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:









After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key points:

  • There are many simple tools and complex modern machines used in agriculture.
  • Tools and machines make the process of growing and producing our food and fiber easier and more efficient.
  • Farmers and ranchers can produce more food with less effort with the use of machines and tools.


  • Do each station as a whole class activity.
  • Assign older students from another class to be the leaders for each station.

We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

  • Read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Have the students discuss the simple and complex machines in the story.

  • Have students do research and report on agricultural by-products used in the production or use of machines.

  • Ask a farmer, rancher, crop duster, agricultural equipment representative, or food distributor to visit your class to discuss the machines he/she uses.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

  • Compare simple tools to complex modern machines used in agricultural systems to improve efficiency and reduce labor (T4.3-5.a)
  • Describe how technology helps farmers/ranchers increase their outputs (crop and livestock yields) with fewer inputs (less water, fertilizer, and land) while using the same amount of space (T4.3-5.b)

Education Content Standards


Economics Standard 1: Scarcity

  • Objective
    Identify what they gain and what they give up when they make choices.


World History Era 7 Standard 5A: Connections between major developments in science and technology and the growth of industrial economy and society.

  • Objective 3
    Objective 3
    Analyze how new machines, fertilizers, transport systems, commercialization, and other developments affected agricultural production in various parts of the world.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Language: Anchor Standards

    Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

Mathematics: Practice Standards

    Model with mathematics. Students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. Students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
    Use appropriate tools strategically. Students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understandings of concepts.


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