Welcome back to another of our Nutcracker activities for Storybook Advent this year on Rainy Day Mum. Today we have a fun STEM Activity inspired by the story a Dancing Ballerina. Using cogs and motors were are going to make a ballerina pirouette and turn. So here we go our STEM Dancing Ballerina Activity for Kids.
When I was a little girl I loved ballet! For 14 years (starting at 2), I took ballet lessons every year, and loved every moment of it. I finally quit when we moved to a different country in between my sophomore and junior year in high school. Then I had three boys, and have not been able to share my love of ballet with them. Until, that is, this past weekend. After watching the most recent Nutcracker movie, they wanted to know more about the back story to the movie. So I found the classic Nutcracker story from our local online library, and read it to them. Both stories have a focus on dancing, especially ballet. Remembering my pirouettes, I came up with a quick little STEM activity to teach my boys about gear trains and ballet!
Nutcracker STEM Activity
- 1 Learning Journey Techno Gears STEM Construction Set (Wacky Robot)
- 1 smoothie straw
Make a ballerina
- Print out the ballerina images below (you can find the original image at https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-ballerina-elegant-pose_849904.htm#page=1&query=ballerina&position=26):
2. Cut out both ballerina images.
3. Glue the straw to the back of one of the ballerinas, leaving about an inch of the straw at the bottom.
4. Glue the other ballerina image to the straw, matching it up to the silhouette of the other image.
5. Set the ballerina to the side to dry.
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Build Gear Train
First off, what is a gear train?
A gear train is a series of gears whose teeth are engaged, which allows all the gears to move all at the same time when only one gear is rotated by an outside force. Gear trains are used in factories (manufacturing) to make sure conveyors and machines all move at the same time. By varying the sizes of the gears in the gear train, the speed of equipment can be changed along the manufacturing line. To illustrate this aspect of a gear train, I planned to vary the speed of our spinning ballerina.
- Using the Wacky Robot Learning Journey Techno Gears STEM Construction Set, I asked my oldest son to build a gear train.
2. Next, my son attached our ballerina to one of the largest gears in the gear. He placed a ball of playdough onto the center of the gear, then stuck the bottom of the ballerina’s straw into the playdough.
3. We turned on the gear train, and watched the ballerina spin!
4. We moved the ballerina to a slightly smaller gear, then watched it spin. My son immediately noticed the ballerina was spinning faster!
5. We moved the ballerina again, this time to the smallest gear in the gear train, and watched our ballerina spin. My son noticed she spun even faster! Even my 3 year old shouted “Wow! She’s really fast!”.
After our experiment, I talked to my oldest son about his observations. We discussed when the ballerina spun the slowest, and when she spun the fastest. He came to a conclusion about gear sizes in a gear train: The larger the gear, the slower the gear will move; the smaller the gear, the faster the gear will move. And his conclusion is correct! Larger gears in a gear train are used to slow down movement, while the smaller gears speed up movement.
Applying this STEM Activity to Ballet
A similar concept is used in ballet. When a ballerina spins with one of her legs straight out, she will spin relatively slow. To speed up a spin, she will bring her leg closer to her body. When her leg is straight out, the diameter of her spin is large, like a larger gear in a gear train. When her leg is brought closer to her body, the diameter of her spin is smaller, and she spins faster. Who knew ballet and physics were so closely related?!
More Nutcracker STEM activities for Kids
Watch the prince transform to the Nutcracker and back with this spinning Thaumatrope STEM Activity.
Christy from Engineer to Stay at Home Mom
Christy is the mom to 3 rambunctious little boys, and an engineer turned stay at home mom. Now she shares her love of all things STEM with her boys, and finds ways to connect with her kids and have a lot of fun!