Thursday, March 7, 2013

Building Our Own Clock

The boys built their own clock this morning!  Before I tell you how they did it, let me tell you a little about the path that got them here.  

It all started because this special little guy combined our work earlier this year on telling time with our work on the solar system, orbits, and rotation.  He surprised me and made his own clock for people who travel to a planet with a slower rotational rotational speed than that of Earth.

His planet has 44 hours in a day.  

This inspired Kal-El to make his own clock.  He copied the format of the 24 hour clock in our school room.

He also made a digital clock.  Then, he proceeded to beg me to get him some wire and then begged me to "look up on the computer how to hook my clock up to one of our real clocks so that my paper clock will move and keep time along with the real clock."  Anyone up for that task?

What I did have in my basement storeroom was My First Clock by Fascinations  which I picked up at a Tuesday Morning/TJ Max/Marshalls kind of store for $2.99 three or four years ago.

The instructions aren't stellar but they aren't horrible either.  After we put it together it didn't work correctly and we had to go back and reverse the position of one gear. The boys were able to follow the photo instructions mostly by themselves and took turns finding and assembling the pieces.  The only steps I had to do for them was inserting the fork and fork supporter for the pendulum hanger and also adjusting the position of the hammer spring to regulate how the hammer hits the bell.

The little booklet that comes with it was great.  I provided exactly the scientific information I needed to answer the boys' questions as we worked.  It explained that the spring supplies the energy that makes the clock run.  When the spring is wound up it will automatically want to release its energy and return to its unwinding postion.  It was easy to observe, even before the clock was completely assembled, how some gears act to slow the speed of other gears so that the different hands can move at the proper rate and so that the spring case makes one complete rotation every hour. 

The booklet also gives a lot of information we can use when the boys are older such as the rotational rates of the different gears and an interesting facts section.  It even explained why grandfather clocks are called "grandfather clocks."  The necessary formulas to calculate the period of every swing of the pendulum as well as the transaction rates for the energy were also provided. 

We also learned exactly how a pendulum works to regulate the speed of the clock and keep it constant.  It was fun to watch the clock work both with and without the pendulum.  I took a video of both.  There is a little bell inside the clock that rings every 15 minutes.  They were really thinking of kids when they designed that.  Who wants to wait a whole hour for the bell to ring?  You can hear the bell many times in the first video because the pendulum is not attached yet.  These are short 10-15 second videos and won't suck the life from your day.

The second video shows how the motion of the clock is affected by the addition of the pendulum.

The Amazon reviews for this product are hit or miss.  I think some of that can be attributed to the bad luck of getting a kit with a missing or defective piece and much of it can be attributed to human error in following the instructions.  We were able to assemble this clock and have it work with a minor amount of adjustments.  It has been running and keeping correct time for almost two hours as of the time of this post.  It is certain not meant to be your family's "go to" clock for keeping time.  Rather it is an excellent example of how the mechanisms of a clock run WITHOUT ELECTRICITY.  According to the box this clock is based on the first ever mechanical clock created by the Italian scientist, Danti E., in 1350.  Kal-El now fully understands that he cannot just hook up his paper clocks to one of our wall clocks with a length of wire from the basement!

Along these same lines, there is a book called Make Your Own Working Paper Clock in which you cut the book into 160 pieces, glue them together, and have a paper clock operated by weights that keeps perfect time and can be rewound and regulated.  Read the comments at Amazon before you indulge.  This would definitely be for the older middle school or more likely high school age student that is into this type of thing.

Have you had a chance to enter the Montessori Print Shop giveaway yet?  If you haven't, skedaddle on over to the giveaway post.  If you have, don't forget there are opportunities to enter daily!

Montessori Monday


  1. How neat! I added this to my wish list for the day when my kids will be interested in this! Awesome work by the boys!

  2. I've made kid clocks before, but never a digital paper clock! I'm thinking the kids would love doing that with one of the many extra toilet paper rolls we have around here. And the plastic clock with the gears! I might have to invest in that one. Thanks for the review!

  3. Surely gives me the idea what will I have for our little “Os” birthday presents… ^_^ She’ll definitely going to love what mommy got for her… xoxo