Simple Machines…Complex Thinking: West AM Reinvents Galileo

By the West AM Team

Hey! The longer it is, the higher it goes!” yells Zack as he excitedly launches another foam ball skyward above the sand pool with his plank and
hollow-block catapult.
Or, put another way: “Given a constant downward force applied to one end of a lever, the amount of upward force imparted to an object on the opposite end increases with that end’s distance from the fulcrum.”
Just as Galileo did four centuries before, the children in West AM discovered the rules that govern the physical world—not through books or answers given by others, but through careful observation and repeated experimentation. As they spontaneously constructed ramps, catapults, pipes, and bucket-lifters out of the materials available in the classroom, they were exploring the physics of simple machines (pulleys, levers, inclined planes, wheels) that help move things from one place to another.

Hey! The longer it is, the higher it goes!” yells Zack as he excitedly launches another foam ball skyward above the sand pool with his plank and hollow-block catapult.

Or, put another way: “Given a constant downward force applied to one end of a lever, the amount of upward force imparted to an object on the opposite end increases with that end’s distance from the fulcrum.”

Just as Galileo did four centuries before, the children in West AM discovered the rules that govern the physical world—not through books or answers given by others, but through careful observation and repeated experimentation. As they spontaneously constructed ramps, catapults, pipes, and bucket-lifters out of the materials available in the classroom, they were exploring the physics of simple machines (pulleys, levers, inclined planes, wheels) that help move things from one place to another.