Primary Primary Science

Science: Properties of Materials

Activity 1: Constructing a stable wall

Suitable for: Year 3 to Year 6

Learning Focus: To identify the properties of a wall which help it stay up

To suggest and refine ideas to develop a final design that fits set criteria

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years as a barrier between the east and the west. Many other walls have lasted longer; the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall for example. What is it about these walls that helped them stand the test of time?

In this activity, pupils will investigate the construction of walls and the materials they are made from.

Begin with a walk around the school grounds looking at walls, either of buildings or standalone walls. Ask the pupils to say what material they’re made out of and if they notice anything about their construction, e.g. the pattern of the bricks, pillars, buttresses or foundations.

Returning to the classroom, use Lego or Duplo bricks to make similar walls using a base on which to build the ‘wall’. Ask them to experiment with the pattern of bricks (not just the colours!) to find out if one pattern is stronger than another.

To find out, they’ll need to make sure it’s a fair test by having the walls the same height and thickness. Use a spring balance to apply pressure to the wall until it falls, making sure that one of the ‘construction engineers’ is watching to see how much force was needed before the wall fell.

Extend the activity by allowing them to refine their design, perhaps changing the pattern, adding pillars or buttresses then retest. Which final design was the strongest? Can they explain why this might be?

Activity 2: Testing durability and suitability of materials for building a wall

Suitable for: Year 3 to Year 6

Learning Focus: To identify properties of materials

To suggest the properties necessary for a material to be suitable for building a wall

To be able to suggest uses for materials based on their properties

Give the pupils a range of materials that could be used for building a wall. Include wood, rubber, plastic, metal, brick, concrete and glass in the selection.

Ask them to look at each material and feel it, suggesting what properties it has that would make it good wall material and what disadvantages it has.

Use the accompanying activity sheet to record their ideas. Afterwards, carry out a class vote on which they thought was best and why. Do they all agree?


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