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When children are investigating how to move objects, challenge them to make a first class lever. Encourage the children to explore how far objects can travel depending on the placement of the fulcrum or the variation of the force. Optional: Adults can build a catapult with popsicle sticks, rubber bands and a plastic spoon, which children can use for further explorations (click link for more information).
⚙ 3 years and up
Time and Place
⚙ Any time of day
⚙ Any time of year
⚙ A lever arm (e.g., paint stir stick or ruler)
⚙ An object to serve as a fulcrum (e.g., sponge, pencil, eraser)
⚙ Small soft objects to launch (e.g., pompom, eraser, cotton ball)
⚙ Supervise children at all times
⚙ Launch soft objects only
Preschoolers were playing in the yard when one of them discovered that by stepping on one side of a wooden plank that was balanced on a wooden block, a toy could be launched off the other side. The educator joined the children and together they built more levers to launch different toys
Questions You May Ask
⚙ How can you use a [ruler, paint stir stick] and a [sponge, pencil, eraser] to launch a [pompom, eraser, cotton ball]?
⚙ What happens when you press on one side of the lever?
⚙ How can you make the lever launch objects [higher, further]? •How far can you make an object go if you press [harder, softer, slower, quicker]?
⚙ What can we use to measure how far your object traveled?
⚙ How can you change the design of your lever?
Related Children's Books
⚙ Simple Machines: Wheels, levers and pulleys by David A. Adler
⚙ Simple Machines by D.J. Ward
⚙ Levers by Martha E. H. Rustad