Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homeschool Website Resources for Science and Physics Elementary Grade Studies on Simple Machines

Homeschool websites that have relatively fun online activities for studies on simple machines (lever, pulley, wheel and axle, wedge, inclined plane, screw) weren’t real easy to find. Millions of lesson plans, science websites, science experiments, history and basic information are of course available with a “simple” (corny pun spontaneously intended) Google search for “simple machines.” A search for “online games simple machines” will bring up a few educational online games. Edheads was in the top results in my search (which varies per computer user). It has a cute popup online games where kids are guided by a talking robot while traveling from room to room identifying simple machines. Edheads also has a few links to lesson plans and other related online educational science games. This is a great website to visit for an introduction to simple machines for early elementary students.

Wikipedia (gee- what a surprise!) has an entry on simple machines, and is worth a read to familiarize yourself with some history. The Museum of Science website and the Science Learning Network have put together an “Inventor’s Toolbox” page that has photographs and simple explanations of simple machines. There’s even an activity for identifying Leonardo’s historical inventions at the Museum of Science website. These links are highly educational, but can be a little boring for the average digital kid. Still, they're more fun than a worksheet.

The Science Learning Network website has a link to “Ten Cool Websites” that are definitely worth a visit. (And you have to admit, science is cool.) The list isn't full of really cool games, but it does include incredibly valuable science related websites with resources to free activities, videos and lectures from educational institutions, lesson plans, and links to websites with even more websites on science for homeschoolers (and everyone else). There is, however, a link on the side menu for "Kids' Stuff" which is a list of educational websites for kids - and it looks like there could definitely be some truly cool websites on that list.

Another educational website listed is FreeScience Info which apparently has 1500 free science ebooks available for download. Many of these are high school or college level, but there’s definitely homeschool science literature available. I did a search for “simple machines” and nothing came up, but a search for machines listed about twenty resources – none of which were elementary school level. Their link to free videos and lectures is also a great homeschool website, but primarily for older students and adults – and it’s a definite goldmine for free science courses, including a link on free online courses for various subjects, including physics, for the upper grades. I haven’t tried any yet, but the links are from universities, and it’s definitely a website for upper grade homeschoolers to bookmark (and it’s great listening material if you’re having trouble falling asleep, even if you don’t know what they’re talking about!).

The Franklin Institute is a little more kid friendly, and has a physical science “hot list” of science websites that looks very useful to homeschoolers. For some flash visuals, and some mechanical mathematics, Cosi.org has a simple machine introductory lesson that is a great webpage to start on for a simple machine lesson, even if only to clearly demonstrate the action of simple machines such as the wedge, plane, pulley, etc. The webpages that follow the introductory page are for upper elementary grades, and include some mechanical mathematics for older students. (We’re still working on our single digit multiplication.) Cosi also has a “find the simple machine” educational activity, and many more science online activities for elementary and upper grade homeschoolers. If you’re ever in the Ohio (US) area, they have reasonably priced workshops for homeschoolers.

Whenever I do a search for homeschool websites I usually find links on Internet4Classrooms, and sure enough, they have some links to simple machine websites, and even more science links on simple machines listed in their list of educational websites for physics. I also have a lot of luck in finding links to websites for homeschooling in websites managed by teachers and other homeschooling moms. (Yes, moms. I almost wrote “parents,” but I have yet to find a website with links from a homeschooling dad. Not that they’re not out there – I just haven’t come across one yet.)

Teacher Librarian Jackie Miers has compiled a list of some websites with lesson plans and activities on simple machines, including a simple beginner’s educational online game of simple machine recognition from the Harcourt website . Jerrie S. Clark from the Educational Technology Center has also compiled a list of links on websites for lessons on simple machines. Clark’s list has links to online and offline activities, science experiments, and lesson plans. Homeschoolingmamaof4 also has a blog post with some links to websites for homeschoolers in the upper elementary grades studying simple machines, and Mrs. Julie Thompson from Missouri has an excellent science website with a list of links for simple machine studies. With all the lists of links, there’s sure to be some useful homeschool links to add to a collection of homeschool websites on science subjects.

You’ll likely find that the same simple machine links are listed on multiple homeschool website resources, but there’s usually at least a unique link or two listed in each one. One game listed on most homeschool websites on simple machines is PBS’s Goldburger to Go online educational game with the ZOOM crew. This is an interactive educational online game for teaching simple machines with the beginning help of a hamburger. Looks fun. We’ll have to try it. (Although my vegetarian daughter might not want to watch.) Scholastic has a “Digmeister” webpage on simple machines, and PBS has a list of activities and episodes on physical science for elementary school children .

Building contraptions is a great way to learn about simple machines, and there are some free online educational games that promote physics knowledge and the principals of simple machines. One very physics oriented game is Crazy Machines. We downloaded the one hour free trial (which was only enough time to get through the first few levels), and my 8 year old and 15 year old both found it interesting. The Crazy Machine game is so incredibly physics oriented, it’s like the ultimate tool for learning elementary physics. School, games, fun – can those three words actually go together? Crazy Machines has great reviews at Amazon, and is available for under $10.00. And Amazon search results for simple machinesbrought up simple machine games, books with experiments for elementary students, and of course some intermediate simple machine books.

Fantastic Contraption is a safe, fun, free and educational online physics game. (No download required, also on the miniclip game website. ) The I Know That website has some free widget building games that are great for elementary kids. The levels with stars are free to play online, but the levels without a star require a subscription.

PlanetCDRom.com advertises free software for homeschoolers, however "free" is actually the $6,95 they charge for shipping - which really isn't such a bad price. The shipping cost per item is reduced when you buy more than one item. For under $14 (including shipping), PlanetCDRom.com has a Speedstudy Physics 1 and Speedstudy Physics 2 software programs for teens. For the same price, elementary students can use the Discover Science software with their time travel theme to discover the laws of physics and play games with science. The little ones might like to design machines and take science lessons over the computer with a simple software program like Sammy's Science House .

Homeschool science studies can't be limited to the computer though. If you enjoy science kits, Hobbytron has a Physics Discovery Science Kit for under $25, a larger Physics Workshop Science Kit for under $45, and if you are lucky enough to be able to afford it, Hobbytron has a really fun looking Physics Pro Advanced Physics Kit for just under $95. A coupon might help. Save 5% on all Science projects, kits and accessories at HobbyTron.com using coupon code: SCIENCE. Now if I could just find a simple machine to carry me into bed...

P.S. Next Morning: Just want to add this free physics game download called Phun that I found at the Educational Freeware website (a must have homeschool website to bookmark!). I'm downloading it now...

P.S.S. The Phun game is cool - 80's style - but we bought Crazy Machines and my daughter (8) LOVES it. She said "this should be in a museum!" The one hour free trial doesn't do it justice. There is a lot to explore. Not only can children complete hundreds of challenges, but they can create and endless amount of their own "contraptions" - all using lessons in physics. Tools to build include an array of pipes, gears, electricity (must have complete circuit), fireworks, balloons, gravity related objects, robots and a lot more. This is a game every elementary student should have! I don't recommend you download from Big Fish - they tend to leave "leftover files" in your Windows registry. I wish I could recommend a good place to download it - I'll have to get back to you on that - I think I used iwin free download version - but they download extra stuff, but I scanned it with Spybot and Avast and it was spyware and virus free - safe, just annoying download - (make sure you choose custom if it's asked and skip the toolbar download) - but you can delete everything later with a good uninstaller. Anyhow, Crazy Machines is worth every penny! (And I think the Amazon offer is cheaper than the downloads offerred online.)

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