First Class Levers
This is an investigative activity to introduce the topic of levers, it should be done in an area with many different work surfaces including tables and open floor areas (lunch room or gym would be ideal). Students will be given various objects to investigate how levers work and why they might be useful. They will write their observations in their journals to be discussed as a large group during the next lesson.
Context for Use
The students will need several items for their lever creations. Give them as many different boards as you are comfortable with, these should be ranging in size and can be as small as a ruler to as large as a 2"X10"X12'. If you wish to do this in your classroom instead, you may cut out the larger sized levers. They will also need items to be used for the fulcrum. These could be an eraser for the smaller levers or a sandbag or sturdy box for the larger ones. They should also be given items of varying size and mass to test their levers with. If you are using the large pieces of wood, let the students stand on the board like a teeter-totter (make sure you watch this group very closely and do not let them use a fulcrum of a dangerous height).
This investigation is used as an introduction to levers and could be used at any age level with different expectations as to their observations and data collected.
Resource Type: Activities:Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Description and Teaching Materials
Now you may show the students the materials they have to work with. Discuss any safety rules that may be unique to this investigation. Also, inform the students that they should try to create more than one lever. You may want to set up stations that they can rotate too, or have a whistle or signal for every one to return to the supply station and try something new. Divide the students into their groups and let them go. About five minutes before the end of class, reconvene as a large group to put supplies away and to instruct the students to complete any of their observations and reread them as homework to discuss them the next day.
During the class discussion the next day, let each group share one observation so that each group will be able to share an original idea. Lead the discussion so you may come to discover some key vocabulary together such as fulcrum, lever arm, advantage, resistance, load, and/or effort. If you wish, give the students a pen or pencil of a different color than the one they used the day before, so they may put vocabulary words into their journals, perhaps where they made an observation about it.
Near the end of the discussion, you and the students should have generated definitions and a picture of a class 1 lever that can be labeled and is accessible to all students (either in their notes or on a class note board or similar). You may also have them turn in their drawing with notes on how their lever works at the end of the discussion.