Work smarter not harder! This idiom articulates the benefit of the basic engineering principles behind the simple machines that make our lives easier. All around us, day in and day out, we use simple machines to help us work smarter and more efficiently. But first we must ask, "What is considered work?" It does seem that there are a variety of possible answers, depending on your personal perspective. From the scientist's perspective, work is defined as using force to move an object (when the force and object are moving in the same direction). The idea of working smarter is the foundation of this six–week curriculum unit designed for students in sixth grade as they use inquiry and experimentation to discover the work advantage gained through the use of simple machines. We will focus on the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw.
I am a sixth-grade teacher in a self-contained classroom at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven. The neighborhood/ magnet setting is a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. The classroom is a mixture of varied ethnicities, economic strata and social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. The use of scientific inquiry allows all students at all levels to learn in an inherently differentiated environment. This unit will provide that foundation and approach.