Ripples and Reflections

…and droplets of thought

Collaboration, creativity and problem solving


While researching to complete set tasks for this subject, I came across an idea that was new and interesting to me; it involved students working together on a project, enthusiastically and thoughtfully. If you have ever come across any Rube Goldberg videos, you will know what I mean.

My interpretation of a Rube Goldberg activity is that it involves creating a longwinded sequence of activities, used to perform a relatively simple task. Reuben Garrett Lucius “Rube” Goldberg was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor.

There are extensive Rube Goldberg competitions throughout the world which now pay tribute to his creative career; and his legacy can also be viewed in some films that make use of the Rube Goldberg machine concept – like ‘Edward Scissorhands’, ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’.

What drew me in even more, however, was watching examples of a Rube Goldberg project in action; as students worked out, collaboratively, what worked and what didn’t, in creating a simple but complicated machine. That teachers have now developed a sequence of lessons and ideas from this concept was even more interesting… A ‘Rube Goldberg’ style experiment is one which promotes engagement, and involves groups in elements of design, collaboration, creativity and problem solving.

Author: LindaJay

Keen lifelong learner who likes to dabble in many things, but would like to be more expert in some.


  1. So glad you wrote about it – new to me too and good reading as there was a FB video doing the rounds that was intriguing me. I wish I was a science teacher! Of course over the years we see these things but did not realise someone’s work was behind some of this too! Thanks.

  2. What a great idea. I had not heard of this until reading your post. Looking forward to sharing some Rube Goldberg contraption videos and ideas with my students. Science isn’t my favourite subject to teach but I think I could create a much more exciting environment by implementing something like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Your post got me thinking and now I want to expand on my above comment.
    I love using PBL tasks in my classroom but have not ventured into using them in Science. Unfortunately the school I work at has a program they wish us to follow (this is why Science isn’t my favourite subject to teach). I make the tasks as engaging and hands on as possible but the template given is quite chalk and talk – not something that works for me.

    Have you used or explored any other PBL resources or ideas? My two favourite models are the 21st Century Fluency Project ( and the Apple’s Challenge Based Learning model ( I love that the teacher acts as a facilitator of learning, rather than the source of solution in these models.

    I am a big believer that students need to be given the opportunity to come up with ideas and collaborate with their peers to create something. Documenting this journey is important too, but I leave this as an open platform for my students. Some like to blog, others make recordings, some like to handwrite and draw pictures of their journey. I guess that’s the beauty of a contemporary learning environment where students need to learn to take responsibility for their learning.

    I watched the video you included in your post and was reading through the comments afterward. There is an interesting one discussing the presentation of real-world problems to students who have no idea how to solve them because they get caught up in the complexity of it and are not sure where to start. The writer solves this issue by suggesting creating a complex machine that does something simple (like the group who creates a sandwich). She goes on to say, “this way you’re freeing up their brains to work on the process of the design and not the final product”.

    A great post which has made me think about my own Science lessons as well as PBL in general. Thanks.

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