Make Work Easier!


Students will work in pairs to design a lever. They will conduct experiments using a penny and nickel to explore the uses of a lever.


  • Students will observe how a lever works and create a lever of their own.
  • Students will describe examples of levers in their lives.


  • K
  • 1st
  • 2nd

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 0-45 minutes


For each pair of students:

  • 1 cent (penny)
  • 1 nickel
  • 6-inch ruler
  • Pencil

Lesson Steps

  1. Discuss with students the differences between simple and complex machines.  Explain that machines help you do things you might not be able to do like lift heavy objects. Simple machines have few or no moving parts. Complex machines are made up of many simple machines. Examples of complex machines are cars, washing machines and clocks.
  2. Explain to your students that they will make an example of one simple machine called a lever. A lever helps you pick up things that are heavy.

  3. On the board, draw an example of a seesaw with a heavy object and a light object on the side. Tell the students to guess what would happen if you put the objects on the ends of the seesaw.

  4. Label the board as the lever and the center point (stand) as the fulcrum.

  5. Divide the class into pairs. Show students the materials each pair will be using.

  6. Explain that each pair will create their own lever using a pencil as the fulcrum and a ruler as the lever. One student will balance the lever on the fulcrum to find the center, then the partner will put a penny on one end and a nickel on the other end and see what happens. Have students get their materials and perform the experiment.  (You may wish to mention that the law specifies compositional "tolerances" for each denomination. Coins may get a bit lighter over time due to wear.)

  7. When everyone has had a chance to see what happens, discuss the experiment with the students:
    • Which coin is lighter? (penny)

    • What happened to the coin that was lighter? (it went up in the air)
    • Why did this happen? (the weight of the heavier coin is pushing down on the end of the lever)
    • What are some other examples of levers? (seesaw, shovel, pulling a nail out with a hammer)
  8. Have the students draw examples of levers in their journals and label the lever and the fulcrum in each.
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Evaluate the students' class participation and journal drawings.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: Physical Science
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Properties of objects and materials
  • Position and motion of objects
  • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: Science as Inquiry
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Ability necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understand scientific inquiry