Activity Introduction

Quick summary: 
In this lesson, students will develop their understanding of forces by exploring push, pull, gravity and friction. They will then apply their understandings to create a complex system that performs a simple task, inspired by the works of Rube Goldberg. Students will identify the various forces at work within their systems and the origin of those forces.

Created in partnership with education specialists, OfficeMax, this STEAM lesson demonstrates how science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics are interrelated. The lesson requires students to draw on and develop skills from all areas to complete their project.

Learning intentions:

  • Students apply knowledge of forces to create a Rube Goldberg-inspired machine.

21st-century skills: 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 4 Science

  • Forces can be exerted by one object on another through direct contact or from a distance (ACSSU076)

Year 3 and 4 Design and Technologies

  • Investigate how forces and the properties of materials affect the behaviour of a product or system (ACTDEK011)

Year 3 English

  • Understand that successful cooperation with others depends on shared use of social conventions, including turn-taking patterns, and forms of address that vary according to the degree of formality in social situations (ACELA1476)
  • Listen to and contribute to conversations and discussions to share information and ideas and negotiate in collaborative situations (ACELY1676)
  • Use interaction skills, including active listening behaviours and communicate in a clear, coherent manner using a variety of everyday and learned vocabulary and appropriate tone, pace, pitch and volume (ACELY1792)
  • Plan and deliver short presentations, providing some key details in logical sequence (ACELY1677)

Year 4 English

  • Understand that social interactions influence the way people engage with ideas and respond to others for example when exploring and clarifying the ideas of others, summarising their own views and reporting them to a larger group (ACELA1488)
  • Interpret ideas and information in spoken texts and listen for key points in order to carry out tasks and use information to share and extend ideas and information (ACELY1687)
  • Use interaction skills such as acknowledging another’s point of view and linking students’ response to the topic, using familiar and new vocabulary and a range of vocal effects such as tone, pace, pitch and volume to speak clearly and coherently (ACELY1688)
  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations incorporating learned content and taking into account the particular purposes and audiences (ACELY1689)

Year 3 Mathematics

  • Measure, order and compare objects using familiar metric units of length, mass and capacity (ACMMG061)
  • Identify angles as measures of turn and compare angle sizes in everyday situations (ACMMG064)

Year 4 Mathematics

  • Compare and describe two dimensional shapes that result from combining and splitting common shapes, with and without the use of digital technologies (ACMMG088)
  • Compare angles and classify them as equal to, greater than, or less than, a right angle (ACMMG089)

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-7PW, ST2-13MW, EN2-1A, EN2-6B, MA2‑1WM, MA2‑2WM, MA2‑3WM, MA2-9MG, MA2-11MG, MA2-12MG, MA2-15MG, MA2-16MG.

General capabilities: Literacy, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability.

Relevant parts of Year 4 Science Achievement Standards: Students apply the observable properties of materials to explain how objects and materials can be used. They describe how contact and non-contact forces affect interactions between objects.

Relevant parts of the Year 4 and 5 Design and Technologies Achievement Standards: Students outline and define needs, opportunities or problems. They plan a sequence of steps (algorithms) to create solutions, including visual programs. Students plan and safely produce designed solutions for each of the prescribed technologies contexts. They use identified criteria for success, including sustainability considerations, to judge the suitability of their ideas, solutions and processes.

Relevant parts of Year 3 English Achievement Standards: Students identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text. They select information, ideas and events in texts that relate to their own lives and to other texts. They listen to others’ views and respond appropriately using interaction skills.

Students understand how language features are used to link and sequence ideas. They understand how language can be used to express feelings and opinions on topics. Their texts include writing and images to express and develop, in some detail, experiences, events, information, ideas and characters. Students create a range of texts for familiar and unfamiliar audiences. They contribute actively to class and group discussions, asking questions, providing useful feedback and making presentations.

Relevant parts of Year 4 English Achievement Standards: Students express preferences for particular types of texts, and respond to others’ viewpoints. They listen for and share key points in discussions.

Students use language features to create coherence and add detail to their texts. They understand how to express an opinion based on information in a text. Students create structured texts to explain ideas for different audiences. They make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, varying language according to context.

Relevant parts of Year 3 Mathematics Achievement Standards: Students recognise angles in real situations. Students use metric units for length, mass and capacity.

Relevant parts of Year 4 Mathematics Achievement Standards: Students use scaled instruments to measure temperatures, lengths, shapes and objects. They convert between units of time. Students create symmetrical shapes and patterns. They classify angles in relation to a right angle.

Topic: STEAM.

Unit of work: STEAM Made Simple – Primary

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – the lesson activity consists of an open-ended task in which students are encouraged to problem solve independently through experimentation.

Resources required: Forces Handbook. Tables tennis balls (one per pair). Device capable of displaying a video to the class. Make It Move Design Challenge (printed A3 or projected for the class to view). Rube Goldberg Design Challenge Sheet (printed A3 or projected for the class to view). A portable device capable of filming. A variety of construction and craft materials that students can use to create their Rube Goldberg machines (e.g. dominoes, icy pole sticks, balsa wood blocks, cardboard, string, sticky tape, blu-tac, car tracks, string, etc.).

If you will be offering cardboard for students to create their amazing machines with, OfficeMax recommends the following product to safely cut, join and construct, Makedo Tool Set (optional). 

Keywords: STEAM, STEM, force, push, pull, friction, gravity, energy, motion, machine, cause, effect.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions:

  • Students apply knowledge of forces to create a Rube Goldberg-inspired machine.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... explain what a force is.
  • ... explain what motion is.
  • ... explain whether a movement has been caused by a push or pull.
  • ... identify when gravity is the force creating a movement.
  • ... identify the origin of forces in their Rube Goldberg-inspired design.


Teacher content information:

STEAM Education

Over recent years, the importance of STEM has been heavily promoted and discussed within fields of education. This has been within the context of ensuring that the next generation of students are provided with relevant knowledge and skills for the 21st century. STEM acknowledges the importance of the interrelated nature of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the prominence of these skills in a world of continuous technological advancement.

What was missing from this original acronym, however,

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