Simple Pulleys





Name of Activity

Simple Pulleys




pulley, effort, load, Simple Machines


Simple Machines

Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3


1 Hour Total

Brief Description

Students will learn the basic concept of a pulley and how it is used to life weights.

Lesson Objectives:

– To familiarize students with pulleys.

– Introduce a simple machine.

Materials Needed:

– LEGO Simple Machines kits.

– Weight.

– String.

Preparation and Set Up:

– Photocopy one worksheet per student.

– Gather materials.

– Arrange students in pairs.

– Distribute materials.

Necessary Background

Pulleys are simple machines that allow us to lift heavier loads by increasing the distance

required to lift the load (just like levers).Vocabulary:





  1. Have students design a pulley on a lego wall that will lift a load up off the table to the top of the wall.
  2. Let student brainstorm what their pulley should look like.
    1. The pulley should have a string wound-up to an axle on the base of the pulley structure.
    2. The pulley should have a solid base and wall to support the pulley wheel when the weight is being lifted.
    3. If possible (depending on age and ability), students should build a container to place the weight in at the top of the wall.
    4. If possible, the pulley should be able to rotate to move the weight into the box at the top of the wall.
    5. Have students brainstorm by drawing out their design on their activity worksheet.

  • Have students build and test their designs.
  • When everyone is done let students demonstrate their designs.
    1. Discuss how pulleys make lifting the object easier.
    2. Discuss difficulties and successes students had in this activity.

    Extensions or Modifications:

    – Make the pulley work by using a motor.

    Reference 1

    1 comment on this post.
    1. Marc Bucchieri:

      We (Marc Bucchieri and Daniela Torres) used a version of this activity in Ms. Bowler’s classroom (Vinson Owen, 5th grade) on 10/18/13. As a intro to the lesson (simple machines were introduced in a previous lesson) we went over the force redirection achieved by a pulley and talked about some real world examples where this is a good idea. Then we highlighted some parts of the engineering design process that apply to the lesson (planning, prototyping, testing, redesigning) and asked that they make a drawing of their design before trying to implement it with legos. Students worked in groups of 4, and we brought in extra lego beams in addition to the simple machines kits. Although we only had about 45 minutes to work with, every group came up with some version of a working pulley, although only a few had cranks and none implemented a rotating pulley or used a motor. Overall the lesson worked really well in our class.

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