Retaining Walls

Activity Overview

In this Activity, students have the chance to test a variety of retaining wall designs. Many students will be surprised by the retaining wall designs that work best.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the activity, students should be able to:

  1. Explain, in general terms, how a typical retaining wall “works”
  2. Explain why a retaining wall in which the base includes a substantial section beneath the soil surcharge works better than one that does not.

Tips for Using the Activity

Students should be encouraged to enjoy the Activity.

They should not be rushed or under pressure to obtain the “correct answer” or a high grade.

To start the activity, students can be challenged to make a guess about whether a design with the base under or away from the soil surcharge will be more effective.

Equipment Design

This is an easy Activity to build and operate. Details of the retaining wall designs, such as any radii of curvature at possible tipping points can influence outcomes. Proposed designs should be tested carefully before multiple copies are built for student use. We used much of the same equipment for the Tanks, Culverts, Dams and Retaining Wall Activities.

Additional Information

See the Downloadables section for more information on this activity.