“Fulcrum? Schmulcrum!”

As kids we had a solid understanding of many laws of physics without ever having learned them in a classroom. Imagine how dull it would have been to have had to master a knowledge of fulcrums before being allowed out on the playground. Fortunately we had the teeter-totter and figured things out quite handily.

The equipment required two children, one on each end of a long board. Each had a handle which suggested that the child would stay secured to the board. One child would go down, push her feet and the other child would go down. A problem obvious in the photo above is that the two girls are nearly evenly weighted. We could stop and ask them to solve the issue with a law of physics. Instead we could watch as one child or the other scoots forward or backward until one end goes down allowing play to continue. In the center of this particular board is a fitting that allows the board to be repositioned in three different slots. Again no lengthy discussion would ensue. A larger child intuitively knew what adjustment needed to be made to allow fun to go on.

Teeter-totters seem to have disappeared from playgrounds. Apparently some cautious adults noticed the clever explorations of the laws of physics taking place. There was the famous jump off the board while the other child was still in the air maneuver. The stranded child would land with a thump, perhaps cracking a tooth on the handle. Another mischievous variation had the one child push so hard that the other child went flying, handle or no. I assure my readers that I have only heard of these experiments and NEVER tried them myself. If you find an archaic teeter-totter, please NEVER learn physics this way.

Schools have decided that learning things in books is much safer than learning them on playgrounds. What a loss.

17 thoughts on ““Fulcrum? Schmulcrum!”

  1. We know those as ‘See-Saws’ here, and they are still quite common in playgrounds.

    There was a very old song (1765) that originated with hand-sawyers, but we still sung it as children in the 1950s whilst playing on a see-saw.

    (This from Wkipedia)
    ‘The seesaw is one of the oldest ‘rides’ for children, (circa1700) easily constructed from logs of different sizes. The words of “See Saw Margery Daw” reflect children playing on a see-saw and singing this rhyme to accompany their game. No person has been identified by the name Margery Daw and so it is assumed that this was purely used to rhyme with the words ‘seesaw’.’

    “See Saw Margery Daw,
    Jacky shall have a new master;
    Jacky shall earn but a penny a day,
    Because he can’t work any faster.
    See-saw, Margery Daw,
    Sold her bed and lay on the straw;
    Sold her bed and lay upon hay
    And pisky came and carried her away.
    For wasn’t she a dirty slut
    To sell her bed and lie in the dirt?”

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your work always takes me back (I suppose that is the purpose isn’t it). I love how you take simple things we take for granted and weave a story. How did we know, that just by repositioning ourselves, the see-saw movement would change? Now I have to think about that today! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A, yes! We loved them as kids. I think they have mostly been removed from playgrounds here in most of the US. too dangerous. The merry-go-round looking thing we all played on, has been removed as well. Strangely enough, the complicated metal “gym” that looks like a Tylenol capsule shape made of metal bars is still allowed. So kids can now climb to the top, about 8 feet, and fall down through the myriad of bars. No, that’s not dangerous at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Boy, have you hit a nerve with me! Our neighboring state of New Hampshire seems to have more common sense when it comes to this. They have many outdoor schools where children do all their learning and playing outside. I wonder if they have a teeter-totter. One of the greatest presenters always spoke of children needing to take risks and problem solve – and that happens best outside.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Actually, now you mention it, there is no see-saw in our local playground, although there is still one of those roundabout thingies (which I never saw the point of as a child since they wouldn’t move unless someone got off to push them..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We had seesaws, Elizabeth, and you still get them in South Africa. Our child protection laws are not as as ‘unplayfriendly’ as those in the UK and obviously, the USA. Here children can still play and have fun. I have seen the difference when I’ve travelled and I’m glad our kids still have a little bit of freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

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