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From Raft to Wheeled Vehicle

Target Audience Upper Key Stage 2 Link to the National Curriculum Sc4 Physical Processes (Friction) Yr5 Statutory Guidance. Children should be taught to:

  • Identify the effects of air resistance and friction, that act between moving surfaces
  • understand that force and motion can be transferred through mechanical devices such as gears, pulleys, levers and springs.

Non Statutory Guidance

  • Pupils should explore the effects of friction on movement and find out how it slows and stops moving objects.


  • To trace the development of land transport from the raft to the wheeled vehicle through practical investigation.
  • To enable children to understand the importance of friction in their everyday lives.

Download worksheet

What you need

  • Three ply wood cut into pieces approx 13 by 9cms
  • 25mm panel pins and a junior hammer
  • Lengths of dowel 4.5 and 20mm in diameter
  • Assortment of weights ranging from 10 to 200 gms
  • String and plastic cotton reels
  • Junior hacksaw, bench hook and glue gun*

* only adults to use.

What you do

  • See the video clip on the website: www.practicalprimaryscience.co.uk
  • Children, under supervision make rafts and then undertake investigation 1( raft only)
  • Children again undersupervision to make rafts with runners(4.5mm dowel) for investigation 2
  • Using their investigation sheets the children should undertake each of the investigations in turn i.e. investigation 1 then 2 and finally 3.*

* The three investigations should be staggered over a period of time…possibly one a week over a three week period for the children to write up their findings and plan the next stage following class discussion and filling in downloaded worksheets 1, 2 and 3( Transport)

Group /Class organisation

  • Depending on the number of adult helpers and apparatus available will determine how many groups of three / four children will take part in this practical activity at any one time.
  • If limited help is available then other children not involved directly in the practical activity should be engaged in associated work with the topic e.g. Carrying heavy loads long,long ago.

How it works

  • Clearly as the children progress through the investigations from 1 to 2 and 3 they will build up a better understanding of friction and how it works in real life.

Preliminary Activities

  • This would take the form of class or group discussion to consolidate their understanding relating to how ancient man carried heavy loads from place to place

Follow up work

  • Challenge the children to investigate not only how friction is a hinderance, but also a help….footwear….which gives the best grip?

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