“I am confident that the education they have received will make them individuals who can and will take the time to think for themselves and inspire and lead others.”
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
For the middle school students of the White Mt. Waldorf School this dictum from Archimedes resonates with new meaning thanks to David Shedd, stone-mason extraordinaire, who introduced these students, in a very practical way, to a variety of simple machines. The goal: fashion a granite step for the walkway leading to the classroom, using only levers, pulleys, inclined planes and wedges.
The project began by selecting a piece of granite. The school boasts a 70-acre campus, a portion of which was used in the 19th century for quarrying granite for the railroad. Amongst the quarry rubble left behind, the group found just the right stone for the size of step needed. After drilling, plug-and-feathers were used to split off a slab weighing close to 1,000 pounds.
Now the challenge was to move the slab to its eventual resting place. The lever, in the form of various crowbars, enabled the group to maneuver the stone onto a stone-boat for transport. Next, the pulley came into its own, with a block and tackle allowing the students to trade force for distance. An iron rod driven into the ground served as a fixed point and the students collectively manned the rope. Heave-ho…. Pulling over a sandy soil posed its own problems and necessitated a larger stone-boat making better use of the inclined plane. Teamwork was imperative at this point as was problem solving, and the students gained a new respect for the ancient Egyptians and their accomplishments!
Once the granite step arrived at the walkway, it needed to be flipped over and turned 180 degrees to get the preferred side up. Again the lever came into its own and the students lifted their collective body weight with ease, and delicately placed the massive stone in its finally resting place.
Kudos are in order for all involved, especially for Mr. Shedd and his expert guidance, who taught these students that using common sense and a little physics, they can literally move mountains.
Holly Fortin is one founders of the White Mountain Waldorf School.