Monday, December 17, 2012

Discover Challenge: Levers

Throughout our day to day lives, we are constantly employing the use of simple machines to make our lives easier.  We use levers to pry things open, pulleys to lift heavy items, a wheel and axle to drive around town, and inclined planes to move things up and down more easily.  This discovery explores the idea of using and adjusting lever to lift items.  For those of us who need a refresher, a lever is a straight object that pivots on a fulcrum (think seesaw).

Material: Get creative with the materials you have around your home.  You basically need a heavy item, an appropriate piece of wood, and a block or other item to use as a fulcrum.  We used gallons of unopened milk and other items from the kitchen and stiff, light wood about 2 feet long.  You could also use a ruler and a 12 ounce can, or alternatively, something heavier.  We also used a pool filled with ice and a 8 foot long board outside to extend the discovery.

Present the heavy item to the children.  Depending on how heavy it is, you can ask them to lift it with their hand, a single finger, etc (please be careful when asking a child to lift something heavy).  The point is to prove that the item is heavy.  Next give them the piece of wood and the block, and ask them to find an easier way to lift the item.  Depending of their age and experience, this activity may take a lot of prompting, or you can allow them to explore more completely on their own.  You can also give your children two items and ask how they can lift the heavier item using the lighter item

Our discovery...

This discovery included a bit more involvement on my part.  Mostly because the items kept falling off the lever.  Both Hadley and Finley seemed to intuitively understand how to make the adjustments, although they weren't able to understand or think about the 'why' behind it.  It was especially to fun to watch them extend the activity outside by using a lever to pick up a pool filled with ice. 


  1. Great lesson idea! I love how you get the kids involved in lessons so they get hands on experience. I'm sure they learn so much better that way!

  2. I love hands on learning, so much fun for everyone.

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