Watch out, coming through! This week’s fast-pace lesson is all about things that go, from trains to cars to motorcycles to…tractors? We’ll place a heavy emphasis on STEAM skills this week, including learning more about physics and engineering, along with many other important skills. Ready to roll? Click here to download your tracking document for the week.
Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings) and upgrades (for children ready for more). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) or plus (+) symbols.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson (or you can listen to this read aloud)
- Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith by Barb Rosenstock (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
- Boats on the Bay by Jeanne Walker Harvey
- Locomotive by Brian Floca (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
- All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors by Davina Bell (or listen to this read aloud)
Optional additional reading:
- Forces: Physical Science for Kids and Energy: Physical Science for Kids by Andi Diehn – We love this series for introducing physics to this age group!
- A Child’s Introduction to Art by Heather Alexander – We reference this resource in many of our units!
Optional chapter book:
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- laminator + laminator sheets (optional, but recommended for repeating lessons)
- white cardstock
- 2 rulers or yardsticks with a groove in the middle (or something similar)
- 3 marbles
- (+) 2 test tubes with lids (optional for upgrade)
- 1 toy car (or build it with LEGO or similar blocks)
- 1 ramp, about 12 inches long (can be made from wood planks, large books, or any sturdy material)
- blocks or other objects to prop ramp on
- tape measure
- a small kitchen scale (optional, but helpful for making more exact recordings)
- tape measure
- scrap cardboard
- toothpicks or a dowel
- hot glue gun + glue
- dry erase marker (or beads)
- bin to hold water (or you could use the sink)
- aluminum foil
- blue, black, and white paint
- 4 plastic cups of the same size without a raised edge at top (you may be able to find these cheaper at a dollar store or grocery store)
- bamboo skewers (or you can use dowels if you purchased those)
- masking tape or duct tape
- cardstock in a color
- 2 toilet paper tubes
- hole punch
- peg clothespin (optional)
- 1″ hole punch (or you can use scissors)
- LEGOs or recycled materials
- string or yarn
- ingredients for this recipe
Optional gameschooling idea:
What to do:
We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!
Can a bicycle change the world? We’ll found out this week as we learn about a vehicle you are likely familiar with—the bike! In today’s recommended book, we’ll meet a boy who overcomes many challenges in life to find success and worldwide recognition with his bicycle. Let’s begin by reading Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah—and just try not to feel inspired! If your child is curious how Emmanuel is doing now, this video shares a heartwarming follow-up. You can also use an atlas, world map, or globe to review the location and geography of Ghana before moving on to the next activity.
Activity 1: Let’s start with some copywork as we learn about the parts of a bicycle. Print these sheets and review the parts on the first page before having your child label the second sheet. If you have a bike, you could also write the terms on sticky notes and have your child label their own bike!
Activity 2: Now that we know more about what makes up a bicycle, let’s learn some bike safety! Begin by watching this video for kids on how to ride a bike safely. Next, print these bike safety tip cards (you may want to print on cardstock for more durability) and play a game of Go Fish! to reinforce the tips.
Activity 3: Something that we’re going to discuss a lot this week is the science of physics, the study matter and the forces (pushes or pulls) that act on it. Matter is what makes up all physical objects. Physicists also study many different forms of energy. The objects that physicists study range in size from the tiny building blocks of matter to huge groups of stars. For our lessons this week, we’ll be focusing on mechanics, or the effect of forces on objects and the motions of objects. (source) This video gives a nice overview of forces for kids. If you have Forces: Physical Science for Kids, now would be a great time to read that as well.
Let’s bring some physics to life with this simple activity that demonstrates transfer of energy, as well as the effect of the force of friction.
(+) Ready for more? Build your own Newton’s Cradle with this tutorial to learn more about momentum, mass, energy, and forces.
Activity 4: Finally, let’s explore forces that come into play when we ride a bike. First, watch this video to learn about balance and the force of gravity and how it enables a bike to keep from toppling over while you ride. Let’s bring it to life by doing some balancing of our own. If you have a bike, feel free to go out and do some riding! If you’re not able to do that, try these simple balancing exercises:
- Start by standing on one leg. Do you notice your body making slight adustments to keep you upright?
- Do the same exercise, but this time standing on a pillow. What is different? Does the type of surface change how your body balances?
- Create a balancing obstacle course! Pick a starting point and a finish line in the house, and then create obstacles by using toys or chairs to create things you must hop over or hop around on one foot. Can you make it the whole way? How do balance and gravity affect your ability to complete the course?
- Try standing on one foot and having someone else toss you a ball. Is it harder to catch? Why? How does your body adjust? Now, try tossing the ball back.
(+) Activity 5: If you have a bicycle, let’s use one of the wheels for one final experiment. Have you ever heard of a centrifuge? A centrifuge is any device that uses a sustained centrifugal force, or the force caused by rotation. For example, the rotating drum of a dryer is a centrifuge because it uses rotation to throw off water. (source) Centrifuges are often used in labs to separate components of a solution, like when researchers will spin blood to separate it into red cell blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Centrifugal force will cause the components to separate because the denser particles move to the outside of the rotation, while the less dense parts stay closer to the middle.
The really interesting thing? Centrifugal force is not a real force! It’s actually an ‘apparent force’ and a combination of inertia and another force called centripetal force, which is the force that keeps a spinning object moving inward toward the center of the circle (this force is why planets in our solar system revolve around the sun in circles!). This article explains more about the forces, or you can watch this brief video for a visual explanation.
Let’s watch the effects of these forces in action with this bike wheel centrifuge activity.
Moving up in the vehicle world, we have cars! Let’s begin our lesson with another true story about a famous NASCAR legend—who might not be what you expect. Let’s read Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith (or read it here on OpenLibrary).
In Lesson 1 of this unit, we began taking a closer look at how physics affect things that go. Today, we’ll take a closer look at angles, mass, and the forces of friction to explore how they affect cars. Before beginning, you may also want to read Energy: Physical Science for Kids.
All objects require energy to move. This is Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest (or in motion) will stay at rest (or in motion) unless it is acted upon by a force (which gives it energy). (source) This is pretty easy to prove: Put a toy car or ball on a flat surface. If the surface is flat and nothing touches it, it won’t move! Let’s learn more about some of these forces with three simple STEM experiments.
Activity 1: Car STEM experiments.
Activity 2: Build a rubberband-powered car with this tutorial.
Activity 3: When a car is done driving, it’s time to find a place to park! Let’s create some parking lots of our own (while working on some multiplication) with this simple math activity. Start by printing our Roll A Parking Lot sheet here and laminating, if possible. You will also need two dice and a dry erase marker.
If your child likes a story associated with their learning, you can tell that that you are going to be designing parking lots for the city. The city will send them the dimensions, and then they need to figure out how many spots each parking lot will hold.
Roll the first die and record the number in the first square at the top of the sheet. Roll the second die and record that number in the second box. The first number represents how many parking spots wide the lot should be. Fill in that many boxes in the grid with your dry erase marker, like this:
The second number tells you how many spots long the lot should be. Fill in that number like this:
Now complete the square or rectangle and fill it in to determine how many spots the lot has total. (Each box represents a spot in our fictional parking lot.) Once your child has the answer, have them write it in the third box at the top.
To demonstrate the multiplication, you could also explain how you are building lots that are X rows of Y spots, with X being the first number rolled and Y being the second number rolled. When coloring in the squares, draw them as rows to show how this adds up. You could also use beads or another small object to fill the squares in your lot to make it more hands-on.
Today is all about boats! Get ready for some sea-worthy activities, including some earth science and an inspiring art lesson. Let’s begin with the book Boats on the Bay.
Activity 1: Boats also contend with a number of physics principles and forces. One of the most important forces for a boat to float? The buoyancy force! Read through this article with your child for a simple explanation of buoyancy. Next, let’s bring it to life with this STEM activity.
Activity 2: You can’t have a boat without some water. Let’s review the names of water and land forms with a memory game. Scroll to Step 2 of this post to get the free cards. (If you’ve done our Level 2: Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit, you may already have these printed!)
Activity 3: Boats have also played a starring role in many famous paintings throughout history! Let’s look at one example for our art lesson. If you purchased A Child’s Introduction to Art, turn to page 45 to see the painting “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” by Winslow Homer. (You can also see it here if you don’t have the book.)
Winslow Homer was born in Boston, Massachusetts as the son of a father who owned a hardware store and a mother who was a talented painter. Winslow Homer was a Realist painter, or someone who prefers to paint pictures of real life. He is best known for his seascapes, or paintings in which the sea is the most important subject. You can share more about his life from the description in the book, or you can find more details here.
The painting we will examine today shows a father and his three sons out at sea. “A Fair Wind” was the original title of the piece, but it was changed to “Breezing Up” at one of his first art shows. Here are some questions to ask your child as you look at this painting:
- In art, a focal point is the first thing that stands out in the painting. What do you think the focal point is in this painting?
- Do the people in the painting look relaxed or worried? What do you think the weather is like?
- What do you think they are feeling, seeing, smelling?
- What do you think the boy holding the rudder is looking at?
- How does the painting make you feel?
Homer painted with soft, warm colors, and he used different shades of blue to create the look of sunlight on the water. In art, mixing white with a color creates a tint of that color, mixing in black is creates a shade of the color, and mixing in gray creates a tone. Let’s create some of our own shades, tints, and tones of blue! Using only blue, white, and black paint, mix as many colors of blue as you can. For each new blue, paint a small square on a white piece of paper. When the swatches are dry, give each one a unique name. (Ocean blue? Skittle blue? Bluejeans blue??) How many did you create?
Ready for a new train of thought? Let’s spend today learning about locomotives! We’ll begin with a book that explores the history of trains, Locomotive (or read it here on OpenLibrary). Do you know how a steam engine works? It’s actually an interesting manipulation of matter! This brief video breaks it down for kids.
Activity 1: Have you ever wondered how a train stays on its tracks for its long journey? The secret is in the shape of the wheels. Let’s learn how it works with this activity.
Activity 2: Trains are a great example of chain reactions. The engine goes, which pulls the car behind it, which pulls the car behind that one…on and on until it pulls the caboose! Another way of looking at chain reactions is cause and effect. A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. Cause and effect is often used in literature to create rising and falling action in a story. Let’s create our own story around cause and effect with this comic book template. Using the first two squares as a prompt, have your child complete the story.
Note: This is not a handwriting exercise, so don’t worry about having your child add text to the story if they don’t want to. You can either simply have them tell you the finished story orally, or you can scribe any desired text for them.
Activity 3: Did you see the wrecked train in our book? “Wreck” is a word that uses this week’s phonogram, WR! Let’s use trains to practice reading this letter combo. Start by printing these train engine and train car cards and cutting them out. (You can also laminate for durability, if desired.) We have included a blank train car for any other words you would like to include. After reviewing the sound the consonant team WR makes, have your child practice adding different train cars to the engine to create words to read.
Optional gameschooling idea: Ticket to Ride. This fun strategy game is simplified for a younger audience in this version.
Field trip idea: Do you live near a train museum? Many states have them, and some even offer the option to ride a real train! Check your local area to see if there is one you could visit this week.
Of course, there are so many more things that go in our world! While we could never study them all in a week, let’s learn a bit about a few more modes of transportation on our last day. Begin by reading the book All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors.
Activity 1: Do you love tractors now, too? Let’s make our own with this simple craft.
Activity 2: Has your child ever gone on a zipline? Sometimes they have small versions at local playgrounds, but the longest zipline in the world is Jebel Jais Flight, located in the mountainous desert of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. This Guinness World Record holder is 1.76 miles long (31 football fields!) and can reach a speed of 93 miles per hour! (source) Click here to see it in action!
Let’s make our own zipline out of LEGO or recycled materials! You can use these pictures for some inspiration. After your child makes their zipline, encourage them to see what they could change to make it go faster!
Activity 3: Let’s end our week with a wheel-inspired recipe! These Turkey Pinwheels are a wonderful option to teach your child to make because they can do all of the steps themselves and they can be customized to suit their taste and dietary needs. Feel free to fill yours with whatever meats, vegetables, and condiments your child prefers, then work those fine motor skills with rolling and cutting.
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