Leprechaun Traps Using Simple Machines

Are you looking for a fun way to incorporate St. Patrick's Day into your science curriculum? Try designing and building leprechaun traps!

By Jennifer Sinsel


St. Patrick's Day Lesson Plans

As St. Patrick’s Day draws closer this year, why not celebrate the luck of the Irish by incorporating leprechaun traps into your simple machines unit?  To begin with, introduce the six types of simple machines: pulley, lever, wedge, wheel & axle, inclined plane, and screw.  Mikids.com offers photos of each type, along with short activities and self-check quizzes for your students. 

Once kids have some background knowledge, ask them to design and build a leprechaun trap. Leprechauns are small, legendary creatures that inhabited Ireland before the Celts.  Because they are very clever, leprechauns are usually difficult to catch. However, the lucky person who snares one will supposedly be rewarded with a pot of gold! Traps can be assigned as a homework task or an in-class project, if you are willing to provide enough materials for each group of students. Sample materials include: paper towel tubes, straws, cardboard, string, glue, tape, small boxes, plastic bags, paper cups, plastic spoons, balsa wood, egg cartons, or any other items you might have on hand.  You can also send home a note asking parents to donate materials.

On the day I give the assignment, I like to wear a St. Patrick’s Day hat and splash some green glitter on my cheeks.  To give students some ideas, I show them several examples of Rube Goldberg devices. Search Rube Goldberg on youtube to find some sample designs. Be sure your examples utilize simple machines.  My criteria for leprechaun traps are as follows:

  • The trap must use at least three different types of simple machines. Bonus points are awarded for using more than three types or several of the same type.
  • The trap must have some type of trigger mechanism that will set it off, as well as a place that holds the captured leprechaun where it cannot escape. 
  • Bait must be used!

Once they have finished their traps, ask pupils to set them before they leave at the end of the day. For added fun, spring the traps after school and leave some green glitter and/or pieces of torn green cloth beside them for children to find the next morning. The looks on their faces are priceless!

Leprechaun Traps Using Simple Machines Lessons:

Engineering: Simple Machines  

Learners participate in activities to examine how simple machines can be used to build things. They also learn how to identify the different types of simple machines. They discover how simple machines were used to build pyramids, and how they are still used to build the skyscrapers of today.

Simple Machines Project

Pupils create a model of a simple machine to solve a problem or answer a question. They incorporate the scientific method in their work and give a demonstration.

Modern Day Pyramids

Young scholars investigate the ways in which ancient advancements - including six types of simple machines and can be used to construct modern buildings. As they work together to solve a design problem (designing and building a modern structure), they brainstorm ideas, decide on a design, and submit it to a design review before acquiring materials to create it.

St. Patrick’ Day Lesson Plans:

Gold and Silver Pennies  

Here is a lesson where pupils use common chemicals to turn ordinary copper-colored pennies to silver and gold.

Green Slime  

Have your class learn how to make sticky slime from some common household items and then they can try to trap a leprechaun!

Discussion Questions:

How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day with your class?

Teacher Contributor

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Jennifer Sinsel