Forces and Motion

Lifting Jim (or Jenny)

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Using levers for lifting.

This is a quick demonstration to show that levers can be used to generate large forces from small forces.

What to Prepare

  • a long wooden plank and a suitable pivot to go under the plank (maybe a small round log of wood or a strong wooden box, not too wide)

Safety note: Always ensure that if the pupil falls off the plank the distance is as small as possible and that there is no risk of the plank breaking.

What Happens During this Activity

The class arrives and is met by a seemingly impossible claim from the teacher:

Teacher: I've been working out in the gym! I'm so strong I bet that I can lift Jim (or Jenny) with one hand!

After the class has stopped laughing get them to consider how you might do it (keep the long wooden plank hidden for the moment).

Then… try it out! Volunteers please!

This starter activity always grabs the attention of pupils and opens up the way to thinking about how levers actually work. In addition, pupils often have stories to tell about how members of their family have used levers to move giant rocks in the garden and so on.

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