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Equipment for experiments using ramps.

Students are challenged to use friction to control distance travelled, before talking through their findings.

Activity A5: Gravity and friction finale [PDF, 288 KB]

How to use this activity

This summative task allows the teacher to evaluate each child’s learning from the prior activities. Try it yourself first to ensure you set an achievable challenge. The height and length of the ramp will be crucial.

The challenge involves groups using all their previous experience in order to roll a can down a ramp and have it stop as close as possible to a mark you set on the ground. It might be 1.5-3m from the end of the ramp, depending on your ramps.

The challenge could involve all groups working towards the same goal (mark on the floor) or you could set a slightly different distance for each group so all the solutions will be different and require different materials to achieve.

The students also need to do a verbal presentation prior to demonstrating their method. They will link their thinking and development of this solution to evidence from their previous activities. This shows they can apply knowledge to solve a problem. There is scope for them to extend this explanation to include other evidence from life around them.

Observations about how well the students achieved the learning outcomes need to be made by the teacher throughout this challenge as well as during the final presentation.

Sometimes it's helpful to scaffold student learning when they answer a big question or challenge. Scaffolding can help them to base their solution on evidence.  For example, you may suggest they list activities or trials done previously and make meaning from each one. This may be helpful for the whole class or a particular group.

Where it fits in the New Zealand Curriculum

Nature of science strand

Investigating in Science – ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations (Level 3-4).

  • Science activities can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science sub strands.
  • Identify aspects of Investigating in Science that your students need to get better at or understand more fully.
  • Then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.

NZ Curriculum | Science achievement objectives(external link)

Capability focus

Gather and interpret data, use evidence.

The five science capabilities (TKI - Science online)(external link)

Contextual strand

Physical World. Explore, describe and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena, such as movement, forces (Levels 3-4).

Big science idea

Gravity is a force which acts to pull objects.

Friction is a force between objects when they move over one another. It can be both useful and a problem.


  • Gravity is a force pulling objects toward the Earth.
  • The amount of friction which an object encounters will affect its speed and the distance it travels.
  • The less friction there is, the further an object will travel.

Capability concepts

  • It is important to keep some things the same (constants) so that we can reliably test what we are measuring (variables). 
    For example, in this experiment, if the release point of the marble is not consistent it will not be possible to be sure of your results.
  • Measurements are needed to describe our observations accurately.
  • There are similarities and differences in what we observe.

Possible learning objectives

The students can...

  • make claims and justify them with evidence
  • identify the things which need to be kept the same in their experimental trials (constants) and what they are going to change (variables)
  • make a statement about the relationship between gravity and friction
  • make a statement about how friction effects speed and distance travelled
  • link gravity and friction in this investigation to another experience of gravity they have had
  • link gravity and angle in this investigation to another experience they have had in their lives.
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