Balance is key to keeping us upright. And balance helps us walk without falling over. But did you know that forces play a part in balance?
In this simple STEM lesson, we are going to learn a bit about balance and make a balance tower!
Let's dig in...
Your Simple STEM Lesson on Balance
What is balance?
Balance exists when there is an even distribution of weight which allows someone or something to remain upright or steady. Every object has forces, or energies of motion, acting upon it.
A book sitting on a table has the force of gravity pulling it down to the floor and the force of the table strength holding it up. It remains where it is, unless we tilt the table which causes the force of gravity to be greater and the book falls to the floor.
An object is in balance when all the forces that push or pull on it have caused it to remain still.
A Fun Balance Story
There is a popular story about Christopher Columbus and balance. It is said that he was told that discovering the Americas was no great accomplishment. His critics were try to downplay not only his discovery, but his intelligence.
So, Christopher challenged them to make an egg stand on its tip. After much effort, the critics gave up. Columbus stepped in, tapped the egg on the table, which flattened the eggshell on the tip, and the egg was able to stand upright with little effort.
He cracked the egg in the process, but the story says that he silenced his critics by proving that he was the smarter man!
Balance Sort-of Like Columbus
You too can astound your students by balancing an egg on a table without breaking it. Here’s how:
- Make a small mound of salt on a hard, smooth, level surface.
- Carefully balance the egg on top of the mound of salt.
- Then, gently blow the excess salt away.
With patience and a steady hand, you should succeed in balancing the egg on its end. It is supported by unseen salt crystals which allow the egg to balance on its end effectively.
A STEM Project for Balance
After you have shared with your students about balance, told them the story, and balanced an egg on the table, you can have them use their knowledge to make a balanced gumdrop castle. In this project, the students will examine how balance effects man-made structures by buildings a castle completely out of toothpicks and gumdrops.
- Bag of gumdrops (two, if you really like gumdrops)
- Paper plate to build on top of
Steps to complete project
- Begin by making several shapes out of gumdrops and toothpicks, such as squares, triangles, and octagons.
- Test the strength of the different shapes by standing the shapes up and pressing on different spots.
- Have the students create build a gumdrop-toothpick castle using what they have learned from the first two steps.
Once built, have the students evaluate its strength by lightly pushing on it in several areas. Spend some time discussing together ways that the castle could be stronger and make the changes that are possible.
Digging Deeper into Balance
Here are a few activities to take your balance lesson one step further:
Wrapping up your Simple STEM Lesson
So now you know how balance and forces work together! I trust that you and your students enjoyed making your own balance tower.
If you want to learn more about forces, check out one of our physics programs: