If your kids like the Lego or Playmobil castles, or any of the other building toys, Castle Under Siege! by Andrew Solway is a little book that offers a fun hook into some the science behind those ancient buildings. Already engrossed in the imaginary building of a castle and defending it against all enemies, kids are primed to learn how it was really done. Books like this are great segues into learning more on their own.
I found this book in the library by chance, while looking for books about robots to share with my kids. I grabbed it, realizing that these simple applications might help my kids see just why science is cool. It also provides a nice window into the past. Its aimed at 2nd through 4th graders, though some older kids might enjoy the quick informative read, especially coupled with David Macaulay’s great Castle, which is aimed at higher age level than Castle Under Siege!
Medieval society seems like all labor, but there were lots of machines at work to create and maintain their way of life. Castle Under Siege! looks at a few of these, like the drawbridge, crossbow, catapults, and siege engines were actually applications of simple machines. Photographic reenactments and illustrations help explain the concepts.
Simple machines are also so simple, that a trip to the hardware, home improvement, or hobby store to pick up a couple pulleys, boards, dowels and wooden wheels can result in some quick construction of the same machines on a tabletop scale.