Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (by Virgina Lee Burton) is one of my treasured childhood books. It tells the story of Mary Ann (the steam shovel) who is eventually outrun by industrialization -- the electric variety. But, the best part of the story is how a little boy comes to watch, then a school, then the mayor, the firemen, the garden club, etc., until finally the whole town is standing around and watching Mary Ann "dig more in one day than a hundred men could dig in a week."
Just this morning, my kids ditched their schoolwork at the first sound of a new machine outside. Some kind of conveyor belt is moving tiles and workers up to the roof next door. In the past, they've run to watch the garbage truck, the recycling truck, moving vans, motorcycles, mulchers, and street cleaners! Of course, ditching schoolwork is always easy to do, but there is more to it than that. Watching work can be a learning experience. They may see efficiency at work, or they may find ways to improve things. Perhaps they will invent something new by learning how things are done now.
It is easy to see that there is a true fascination that we have with watching work -- especially when machines are involved. And we'd all rather watch work than do work! I am avoiding some work right now, just by blogging. I'd better get back to it and see if I can drag my students along with me!