Reub's journey

17 October 2011

How things work

When I was a very little girl I would sit on my father's lap and he would say as I stared into the mysterious innards of a 1956 RCA television, "Kerry, can you reach in there with your little fingers and get that red wire? Move it over to where it should no...not there...nope...just up a ways...there it hold it while I screw this in...don't let go...okay... now!" My father among many other things, was a television repair man back in the days when TV sets broke down often, and people actually took things somewhere to be repaired.

He really had a great sense of how things work, and if you were among the last 20 people left on the planet, you would have wanted my dad to be among the few there with you. I remember asking him how televisions work, and telephones, too; these devices seemed nothing short of miraculous. He was able to give detailed answers to these questions, but it was like a foreign language.

I still don't know how anything works, and with the digital age it's just getting worse. I'm more clueless with each passing year.

That's why I worried a little when one of the science teachers at school asked me what I could do with the kids when they were studying "systems."

Systems? What did she mean, exactly? Connected things? Productive things? Working things? Ecosystems? I showed her a big drawing of a mysterious machine, and she laughed and said, "Yeah! That's a system!"

With great trepidation I approached this topic: Make something, and show as many steps as you can imagine! That was pretty much what I told them. Everything is part of a system.

 Rube Goldberg came to mind, and you can see from their drawings that he was a big influence.

It was also a great excuse to watch OK GO videos.

Can you see what it says in the mid-left of this drawing? If kidnapping weren't a crime, I might have to steal this child.

This is where Easter eggs come from.

Somebody is apparently in charge.

Chickens come first, then the eggs.

We grow a lot of berries around here, and obviously, this is our system of harvesting them. How did you think it was done, silly?

 Systems. This is pretty much exactly my level of understanding them. My dad would have been able to explain it all much better.


  1. Great memories reincarnated. My mind went straight to the Mouse Trap game.

  2. My Uncle Johnny worked for RCA and did shows at the CNE (local fair). Uncle Jimmy and my dad helped Uncle Johnny fix his televisions. That was back in the days of TV tubes. Barry's Mum used to get Stinky John to come fix her TV. Ah, the memories!! Thanks for sharing this Kerry. The colorful imaginations of your students is inspiring. This is a beautiful blog.

  3. What a great assignment. It looks like it really got the kids imaginations going.

  4. Wow. I never knew the secret of Easter eggs. Cool.

    These drawings are fantastic. Wow.

  5. You'll never have to work out a post yourself any more.
    These kids are priceless.

  6. ER: My parents refused to get the Mouse Trap Game. Why? I'll never know.

    Ellen: Thanks! These kids are little geniuses.

    Linda: There was a while back in the day when fixing TVs was actually a way to make a living. Stinky John? Seems like there might be a story there.

    Rebecca: It turned out to be a good assignment despite my lack of confidence.

    Reya; Yes. This is where Easter eggs come from; the secret is revealed! And not one of them ever breaks.

    Friko: Haha! You're right! I'll just continue to take my camera to work and that'l be enough.

    Mama Zen: Thanks. You are way cool. I wish I looked like you, seriously.

  7. If you need any more video clips, I have a whole bunch stock piled for when I actually make Rube Goldberg machines with my students. :) LOVE the drawings.

  8. These are wonderful drawings! I am an elementary art teacher - and came across these while looking for drawings of Rube-Goldberg type machines. I'd like to use 2 of them (Water Factory and Amusement Machine) as visuals in some lesson plans, with your permission of course. May I?

    1. Hi Laurel! Thank you so much for asking to use these as examples. Please do! And good luck with those lesson plans!


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