The second grade students at Feynman School check dutifully for stray passersby as they prepare to launch their machines. Fortunately, visitors to our building are familiar with excited students and delicate scientific investigations that sometimes spread into hallways. One friendly parent even made a suggestion as he wove between firing zones!

This week’s experiment, and the unit surrounding it, were made possible by a donation from MindWare. The company manufactures learning games for kids of all ages. They generously sent us KEVA Catapult and Trebuchet kits to supplement our unit on simple machines and force, and the students absolutely loved them.

Each kit came with a blueprint, a bottle of wood glue, a target, a sling pouch, a beanbag or ping pong ball to launch, and all the planks, tubes, bands, and stoppers necessary to assemble the medieval siege engine. The students were able to practice engineering skills in a fun way, and took great pride in their work. Once the devices were assembled, the students spent two science periods isolating and optimizing launch variables. They investigated how flight deck height, counterweight, and ammunition type affected the hurl of each instrument.

Through making predictions, recording trial results, and synthesizing their observations, the students exercised higher order thinking skills. This was continued in math class, as the students decided how to best represent their data on graphs. Then, the students incorporated their medieval machines into two authentic writing projects. First they wrote a procedural guide to present to their peers about their construction process. Then, they reviewed the conventions of letter writing to send thank you letters to MindWare.

At Feynman School we work hard to center learning units around scientific investigations. Children are natural scientists, with their intrinsic desire to study and discover the things around them. We spend a great deal of energy supporting those interests, especially when they are as entertaining as catapults and trebuchets. Thank you again to MindWare for their wonderful donation! For students who love puzzles and challenges as much as Feynman students, MindWare educational games are great resources.

– Shannon Lange


Completed Catapult







Trebuchet in progress (1)