This week we are taking a closer look at inclined planes and how they help us move. An inclined plane is a flat surface that has been raised at one end, such as a ramp, slope, or slide. Stairs can be considered an inclined plane because they help to move loads gradually rather than straight up or down. There is a trade off, though, in using an inclined plane to help move a load, you are trading force for distance. It will take less force to move an item up a ramp into the back of a truck, for example; however, it will require more distance to go up the ramp rather than a straight upward lift, like from the side walk directly below into the tailgate of a truck.
The primary students have been exploring inclined planes through Legos and building water slides for the balls or Lego people to go down. The students enjoyed working in small groups to design their slides with little direction from me, except what an inclined plane is, and what their slide had to do. (Although, for some, I did have to provide a little additional guidance about connecting the tubes together so they fit in the doorways.)
The intermediate students have been conducting experiments in distance and force using cars and car launchers they made from the Legos. We have been able to tie this lesson in with math, and for some, this is an introduction to the metric system, in using meter sticks to measure the distance the cars are launched. The students also had to construct a data table in their journals to record the varying distances with the launchers, then analyze the data, and discuss their results - both verbally and in writing.