Friction when rock climbing

Lesson overview

In this lesson students will develop their knowledge and understanding of friction in the context of rock climbing, demonstrating how friction affects movement.

Learning outcomes
  • Describe the activity of rock climbing: what it is and how it’s done
  • Explain the basic science of rock climbing: the force of friction
  • Demonstrate friction action
  • Explain how friction is useful in rock-climbing
  • Investigate other ways climbers utilise friction

Expedition Prep Checklist

Download the Google Expeditions App on all devices and select expedition El Capitan.

Explore the expedition and locate points of interest.

Review the video content in the Lesson resources section to update your knowledge and develop some teaching ideas.

Lesson steps
  1. Introduction (10 mins)
    Students research El Capitan online, looking at images to identify whether it is smooth or rough. Ask students to describe what ‘grip’ is in relation to rock climbing.

    Challenge students to find out about the Dawn Wall route. Students write a paragraph about what they discovered using the vocabulary rough, smooth and grip.
  2. Expedition (20 mins)
    Students complete the expedition. Explain friction is a force that stops or slows down the movement of a sliding object. It is the action of one surface or object rubbing against another. The greater the force of friction the slower the movement. Friction is an invisible force which is useful in climbing, being referred to as grip.
  3. Activity one (15 mins)
    Test one: Students rub their hands together, explain this action of one surface moving against another is creating friction. Direct students to move their fingers over different surfaces (rough to smooth) and using Student Sheet, found in the Lesson resources section, make a note of how each surface feels.

    Test two: Direct students to roll a tennis ball down a ramp onto different surfaces and identify which surface produces the most friction by measuring how far the ball rolls along the surface. Students compare the results and determine which surface produces the most friction.
  4. Activity two (15 mins)
    Students write an explanation of how friction helps a person climb up a rough rock face.
  5. Extension
    Students investigate why climbers use chalk on their hands when climbing and write an explanation using scientific vocabulary.
    Students can also investigate why climbers wear rubber soled shoes.
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