Ingenious Teaching Techniques & Backyard Fishing

In a series of four videos, Middle School science teacher Clay Miles took his class through various lessons about simple machines. Filmed in his kitchen or most memorably in his backyard “fishing,” (back to that later) Miles methodically broke down his lessons in relatable and understandable language.

The idea of a simple machine originated with the Greek philosopher Archimedes in the third century b.c. A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force. In general, they can be defined as the simplest mechanisms that use mechanical advantage also called leverage to multiply force.
 
In one lesson, Miles displayed a lever, a rigid bar, that he placed over a fulcrum. “Class one levers are cool because they are a machine that changes force, distance, and direction,” he said. Behind his set up he showed two handwritten cards with the words input and output so the students could clearly distinguish which side was which. 

He first demonstrated how the lever can be used to change force. He pulled the input side of the lever so that it had a lot of distance and the output side was short. He placed the weight on the output side and he very easily raised the input side with the weight with very little force. (When the input is greater than the output, you require less force). He then reversed the machine by lengthening the output side, decreasing the input side, and placing the weight on the output side. Miles pressed down considerably and used more force for the weight to move. He explained that the concept of catapults came from this basic machine. 

In another class to show a class three lever, Miles used a tree trimmer with a lengthy piece of cord as a “fishing rod”. Wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, Hunter boots, and a face mask, Miles showed the students how to hook a “fish” (a hat rack that doubled as a largemouth bass in a wagon) and reel it in. “Yes. I know. I’ll reiterate. It’s pathetic. Quarantine brings out the really hard things, and we’ve got to do it so I’m fishing in my backyard,” he said.

In a final lesson, Miles demonstrated a class 4 incline plane and took the students through various scenarios with changing the height of the ramp. 
 
With patience and good humor, Miles displayed the ultimate building blocks of which all machines are composed.
 
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Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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