Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Roman Catapults

This week we studied Roman warfare. Although catapults (catapulta, in Latin) had been used earlier than the Romans, the Romans loved using them to defeat walled and fortified cities.The type of catapult that we usually think of it the Mangonel, which was invented by the Romans in 400 BC. The Mangonel consists of a long wood arm with a bucket or sling with a rope attached to the end. 
This study was a great excuse to make some and have some fun with catapult models.

Building Catapults

  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 6 craft sticks
  • 4 rubber bands
  • marshmallows or cotton balls

  • Stack 5 craft sticks together, and rubber band the ends.
  • Stack one craft stick and a wooden spoon together, and wrap a rubber band around the very end.
  • Separate the craft stick/spoon combination and place the stack of 5 craft sticks between them.
  • Wrap a rubber band around all of the craft sticks to hold the catapult together.

Experimenting with Catapults

Catapults are a simple machine -a lever under tension to hurl a large object a distance. The arm is pulled back and then energy was stored in the tension of the rope and the arm. Then the bucket would be loaded. When released the Catapult's arm would return to its equilibrium position, and when it came in contact with the beam or block, the arm would stop but the missiles stored in the bucket would continue to launch toward the enemy. The Mangonel Catapult fired projectiles in an overhead arc, just as our model catapults do. 
  • Launch an object from the catapult multiple times and measure how far it travels each time. How much does it vary? Can you figure out why?
  • Launch different objects from the catapult and measure how far each object travels. How much does the weight of the object make a difference?
  • Compare catapults. Build more than one catapult and make slight changes to its construction. When you launch the same object from the different catapult and measure how far it travels, is there a difference? Can you figure out why? We found that changing where you put on the rubber band on the craft stick/spoon combination made a difference it how far it shot -the closer to the end you can get, the better the distance.

Other Catapults we have made:

For More Information and Ideas about Catapults:


  1. We made a catapult recently. It was a great success with my five year old son-I like your extension ideas. I can see us spending an afternoon designing catapults!

  2. Catapults are always fun - as toys anyway - I don't think I would have wanted to be on the receiving end of a Roman siege.

  3. At some point I'd love to work with my kids on the physics of the catapult and the arc and all that stuff, but they don't have the math for it yet.

  4. Without getting into the technical aspects of the arc, you can just show them how a change in the catapult can change how high the arc is and get them thinking about why this is so. Not all questions have to be answered...it makes it all the more interesting when they get to that in math. You hear, "Why am I doing this" in math less often that way.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.