This time, the lesson involved us again as unsuspecting participants of a dilemma. The "contributor" to the real-life physics problem was a 15 year old Amish boy who worked at his parents' saw mill. As one familiar with the very conservative Amish in eastern Iowa, I was surprised to find a family who did not shun gasoline-powered machinery. The boys, dressed in the traditional straw hats and suspendered long pants, were busy sawing trees into planks with a power buzz saw, while the girls--dressed in bonnets and long dresses--cut the lawn with a large mower.
Pete picked out a hefty bundle of wood trimmings, and the helpful boy picked it up with a front loader and drove it to the waiting trailer. Pete commented, "That front loader looks a little small to be handling this." As the machine slowly approached the trailer, Pete's words proved to be prophetic: As the load was lifted and extended, and the loader started toward the trailer, we realized that we needed to get clear of the area, and quickly backed away. The load came crashing down onto the trailer, sped up by the loader's momentum and shifted center of gravity, smashing one trailer fender and pinning the front loader in a precarious position.
Fortunately, no one was hurt (the young man was wearing a seat belt). So began or problem-solving: we needed to get the front loader out and onto four wheels without damaging it or endangering anyone. It took a few minutes of pondering with the entire family who had of course come over to analyze the situation, and then with the assistance of a younger brother and another piece of equipment, the front loader was safely lowered and the fork released from under the ton of wood. I suspect that the young man learned some important physics principles, and did it without memorizing any formulas. Not a practical way to learn physics in a school setting, though.