All Resources

Gadgets and Contraptions

In this unit designed for kindergarten classrooms, students will participate in activities dealing with machines, including ramps, pulleys, levers and pendulums. Students will explore how parts of machines work together.

These activities are part of Science World's Big Science For Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with preschool and kindergarten educators.

Gadgets and Contraptions Printable guide


  • Investigate everyday machines and gadgets.

  • Take apart complex machines to see how the parts work together.

  • Recognize that machines can make work easier.

  • Use ramps, pulleys, levers and pendulums.

  • Demonstrate how machines work.


  • Visit individual activities to see list of easy-to-find materials


Here is how a selection of these activities could become a week-long unit of study in a kindergarten classroom:

Day 1:

Day 2:

  • Whole group lesson: Using tools and taking things apart (techniques, safety rules).
  • Literature: How Things Work, Wendel’s Workshop, Mechanimals, or Tool Box
  • Centres: Take-Apart, Rubbings or clay impressions of machine pieces, Draw your own contraption or make a sculpture with machine pieces

Day 3:

  • Whole group lesson: What is a catapult? How does it work?
  • Group activity: Catapults

Day 4:

  • Whole group lesson: What is a pendulum? Find out what makes a pendulum swing faster or slower. Show a pendulum clock.
  • Activity in small groups: Pendulum bowling

Day 5:

Other Resources

  • BC Early Learning Framework 
  • The Way Things Work by David Macaulay
  • Science Arts and Preschool Art both by MaryAnn Kohl
  • The Preschool Scientist by Robert Williams, Elizabeth Sherwood, Robert Rockwell, David Winnett
  • Science in Seconds for Kids by Jean Potter
  • Sandbox Scientist by Michael Ross
  • Raceways: having fun with balls and tracks by Bernie Zubrowski
  • Spotlight on Teaching Preschoolers 2 Derry Koralek, editor. An NAEYC publication
  • Marvelous Moving Things, Mickey Sarquis, editor