Stonehenge - Simple Machine Activity for Kids

We learned about Stonehenge and made a simple machine similar to the type which may have been used to move the enormous blocks to Stonehenge.

Although the exact purpose of Stonehenge and how it was built remains a mystery, there is much that is known. Chapter 11 of Our Island Story (a narrative book for children on the history of England) both peaked our interest and left us with many questions about Stonehenge so we turned to the documentary Secrets of Stonehenge for more information.

Built around the year 3000 BC by stone age people living in Brittan, Stonehenge is aligned with the sun during the winter and summer solstices. In ancient times, stone was a symbol of the dead and wood was a symbol of life. Henges (circular structures) were built of both. While nothing but the post holes remain of the wooden henges, the remains of many stone henges can still be seen in the British Isles today. It's likely that the henges were locations where special religious ceremonies took place.

Coincidentally, hundreds of carved stone balls which date to the same time period in which Stonehenge was constructed have been discovered in Scotland. Historians have puzzled for years over the function of the balls. Recently, one researcher noticed that nearly all of the balls were constructed to a precise diameter of 2.75 inches and proposed a theory that they functioned as bearings in simple machines.

Based upon this theory, historians constructed a replica system which could have been used to move the large stones at Stonehenge. Although we may never know for sure how they were transported, we made a much simpler version of the simple machine using tennis balls, and pieces of wood.

Since the carved stone balls are similar in size to tennis balls, we placed several tennis balls between two channels of narrow wooden beams.

Next we placed a folded up table on top of the tennis balls as a platform and tested the system to see if the table could be easily moved.

It worked, so weight (one child) was added to the table and she was easily moved along the track.

Further testing revealed that heavier weights could be moved by persons with less strength.

To see our other projects which involved simple machines, please visit our Science Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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