If you want to make your schooling more hands-on, science is an easy place to start. Science activities make lessons come alive and engage students.
Levers are everywhere, including scissors, see-saws, crowbars, and nail clippers. We wanted to know more about these simple machines, so we spent a day performing some fun experiments.
Follow along and see what we learned about levers.
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Good terms to know:
- Lever = rigid material that sits on the fulcrum
- Simple machine = non-motorized tool used to provide mechanical advantage. With them, your effort is multiplied.
- Fulcrum = the point on which a lever pivots
- Load = what you’re trying to lift
- Lever Arm = part of lever opposite of the load
- Effort = force used to lift the load – usually you!
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. ~ Archimedes
Levers in our Daily Lives
Are levers really that helpful?
We tested this question by using a hammer’s claw to pull out a nail. After pounding nails into a board, I asked the kids to pull them out using their hands. Then I gave them a hammer to use.
It is much easier to remove nails with a lever. As we push on the handle and claw (lever arm), the head (fulcrum) pushes against the wood and simply pulls out the nail (load).
Building our Own Tools
Is it easier to lift heavy things with a lever and does fulcrum placement make a difference?
We built a lever with a 1” x 4” board (lever) and 14 oz. can (fulcrum).
First we started with the fulcrum far away from the load (12 books). This left a small lever arm that they pushed on to raise the books.
Someone needed to hold the fulcrum in place because the can kept rolling as we used the lever. Because the fulcrum was so far away from the load, the kids had to use a lot of effort to lift the books.
Next we moved the fulcrum so that it was closer to the load and tried again.
It was MUCH easier to lift the books this time. In fact, many were able to do it by pushing down with just one finger! Why was it easier? Because the more space we had to move the books, the less effort it took on our part.
Theoretically you could lift anything as long as you had a long enough lever.
Are you looking for more science activities? Teach your kids about friction.
Do small levers work the same?
I gave the kids a ruler, a small PVC pipe and 10 pennies. They needed to balance the ruler (lever) on the PVC pipe (fulcrum) without coins and then with all 10.
It was challenging to balance the lever and they had to move the fulcrum to gain balance, just like with the larger lever. Every time they added a coin, they worked with coin placement and moved the fulcrum to get the lever to balance again.
Eventually, they were all successful in getting all 10 coins to balance on their ruler.
Learn about levers with Disney Imagineers!
Take some time to look around and you’ll quickly see how many levers you use to make your life easier. Through hands-on activities like these, your kids can understand how this simple machine works.
What have you used to teach your kids about the power of the lever?
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