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Lesson Plans
Our Favorite Toys
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


  • Two or three examples of mechanical toys
  • THE WAY THINGS WORK, by David Macaulay. Book published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1988. CD-ROM published by Kindersley Publishing. (Optional.)
Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

-- Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
-- Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
-- Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
-- IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Additional Software: PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or ClarisWorks Slide Show.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

The following sites should be bookmarked:

  • The History of Toys and Games

    This site includes information about some of the most successful toys ever invented.

  • Office PlayGround: Wind up Toys

    This site contains pictures and descriptions of hundreds of mechanical wind-up toys.

  • Introduction to Mechanisms mechanisms/tablecontents.html

    This Carnegie Mellon University site provides reference materials for students about the design of mechanisms.

  • How Stuff Works

    This site describes what is inside everyday items and explains how they actually work.


    Time Allotment: This technology learning activity requires approximately 10 forty-five-minute class periods.

  • Introduction:
    Ask students to think about their favorite toys from childhood. What did they like about the toy? Why was it their favorite? Guide the class discussion toward toys which were mechanical in nature. Ask students to bring in a mechanical toy from home, if one is available. Distribute the Vocabulary sheet, in Organizers for Students, for students' reference.

  • Control Systems:
    Draw a systems block diagram on the board. Explain each step (input, control, and output). Ask students to describe the input and output of one of the mechanical toys they have brought into class.

    Introduce the types of motion: linear, reciprocating, oscillating, and rotary. Ask students to describe the input and output of one of the mechanical toys in terms of linear, reciprocating, oscillating, and/or rotary motion.

    Define the term "control." Ask students to try to visualize what is inside each mechanical toy that is acting as the control system. Then ask them to describe which of the above principles they think are operating inside the toy.

  • Internet Research:
    Direct the students to use the following sites to research mechanical toys:

    The History of Toys and Games

    Wind Up Toy Company

    Have the students complete the Input/Output Worksheet in Organizers for Students, using three mechanical toys they found on the Web sites.

  • Presentation Project:
    Have the students create a multimedia presentation using PowerPoint, Hyperstudio, or ClarisWorks Slide Show. Overviews of each program can be found in Organizers for Students.

    Inform the students that they can find additional information on mechanisms and control systems at the following Web sites:

    Introduction to Mechanisms mechanisms/tablecontents.html

    How Stuff Works

    (If you have the CD-ROM or book available, have the students refer to THE WAY THINGS WORK by David Macaulay for additional information about machines and mechanisms.)

  • Class Presentations :
    Have the students make their presentations to the class audience. If possible, use an overhead projector or Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panel so that all people in the room can see.


    Design and Technology: Design and make a mechanical toy for a child that incorporates a control system.

    Science: Study the physics of mechanisms, including Newton's Laws.

    Social Studies: Using The History of Toys and Games (, compare and contrast toys and games of different time periods in terms of society and popular culture.

    Mathematics: Introduce the concept of calculating for the mechanical advantage of a device.

    Computer Science: Rather than produce a multimedia presentation, design and program a Web page that includes all required information.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students