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Marie Antoinette Would Shake Her Head, If She Could

One of the things I love about our K-8 kids’ school are the many diverse hands-on projects assigned throughout the school year. It’s also something I dislike about the school, too, especially when they seemed to be relentlessly back-to-back. However, in the past few years, they’ve been better about not assigning so many while keeping some of the favorites. It’s Beatrix’s turn to do The Simple Machines project. The second and third-graders do it every other year.

Beatrix was having trouble coming up with an idea. The project requires students to use at least two simple machines to build some kind of invention or contraption. They are supposed to do it with minimal parental help. These are the simple machines that make up every complex machine:

Inclined plane



Wheel and Axle



One morning before school, we brainstormed ideas. We talked about simple machines we use in our daily lives, like tongs (lever) and knives (wedge). She was really pushing for using pulleys in some way. But she needed at least one of the other machines. An idea popped in my head. She could make a fruit or veggie cutter with a pulley and a wedge! I began to describe my idea:

“You can make a frame and we can help screw a pulley to the top. Then, we can attach a rope to a sharp wedge. You pull the rope up, put a tomato or something under the wedge, then let go of the rope! It will slice it!” Man, I have very good ideas.

She shrugged and moved on as I realized I just proposed my 8-year-old daughter make a guillotine for school.

This is how she looks when I have a very good idea.

This is how she looks when I have a very good idea.

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