photo by Dana Nitzoy

“What do we need wheels for?” Ms. Ndiaye asked her third graders.

“To move things from one place to another, so we can do our work,” explained
Sam S.

“And what does the axle do?”

“It helps control the wheel,” Sam added.

While Ms. Ndiaye was probing her students to recount the history and
importance of one of our most basic machines, the kids were building simple wheel-and-
axle vehicles with Legos. All third graders in District 97 have this opportunity as part of
OPEF’s Geared Up program.

Gretchen Junker, OPEF Geared Up coordinator, was helping the kids
understand why wheels are so important, how “the wheels underneath the car reduce
friction,” which relates directly to the science curriculum’s focus on “force and motion.”
Once the students build their machines, they complete a series of experiments and data
collection to decide what’s working and what’s not working with their models.

Nakayla M. said, “It’s awesome because we get to build with Legos [in school]
and that’s not usual!” Her classmate, Semina R. added that they are building on
previous concepts each week. This was their third week of Geared Up. “We started
with just levers and then we used wheels. Now we have axles and then you get a car!”

Thanks to the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation‘s Future Philanthropists Program for their generous support of Geared Up.

Check out more photos of Geared Up in Ms. Ndiaye’s class by photographer Dana Nitzoy.