Lesson Plan

Simple Machines for a Complex Job

cannon parts and casemate gin for raising cannons

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Civil War, History, Military and Wartime History, Physical Science, Science and Technology
30-45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Georgia Performance Standards/Common Core
Science    S4P3, S8P3, S8CS5
Social Studies    SS4H5, SS5H1, SS8H6, SS8E1, SS8E2
English Language Arts  ELACC4SL1, ELACC5SL1, ELACC6SL1, ELACC7SL1, ELACC8SL1
Civil War


This is a teacher-led activity to be done on site at the fort. Students will learn about the vital role played by simple machines to accomplish challenging tasks at Fort Pulaski. The moving and lifting of heavy cannons, the aiming and loading of the bulky weapons, and other “heavy lifting” was achieved with simple machines. The unsung heroes of Fort Pulaski were the lever, the pulley, the wheel, the screw and the inclined plane.


 At the end of the activity, students will be able to:
1) Name at least two simple machines that helped soldiers aim and fire Civil War cannons.
2) Name at least two simple machines that were used to move or lift Civil War cannons.
3) Explain why simple machines were important in Fort Pulaski.


To better defend the fort, Confederate troops in the fort were busy moving cannons to various locations around the fort. Cannon barrels in the fort typically weighed about 10,000 pounds. A variety of simple machines were used to move the cannons from point to point and to raise them to the top of the fort. The arduous task of moving and hoisting cannons was too time-consuming to be undertaken in the midst of battle. When in battle, loading and firing the heavy weapons also required a clever use of simple machines.



Each stop of the tour includes a question for teachers to ask students. Correct answers and subsequent discussion will allow teachers to assess students' learning.


Mechanical advantage—the advantage gained in doing work (such as lifting a heavy weight) by using machines (such as a pulley or lever).
Barrel—the cannon’s long tube that fires the cannon ball.
Carriage—the wheels and wooden structure that support the barrel.

Last updated: September 22, 2016