October 20, 2015 by WittyLibrarian
Target Age Range: Tweens, Grades 4-6
Program Length: 90 minutes
Brief Description: Learn the science behind what keeps boats afloat in the water, then build and race boats of your own design.
Pennies, at least 200 of them
Other supplies that might float well. We had floral foam, dish scrubbies, balloons, paper and toothpicks on hand as additional options.
Cost: $ 0-50
- Introduction of Topic
2. Explanation of how boats work and stay afloat. Ships and Boats by Chris Woodford on Explainthatstuff.com is a phenomnal resource, indepth and clearly written.
3. Build tinfoil boats and see how many pennies they can hold
4. Build racing boats out of a variety of supplies.
- Build tinfoil boats and see how many pennies they can hold
Kids worked together in small teams to build boats using only tinfoil, with the main goal being to hold the most pennies. We gave them a set time limit to build their boats- 10 minutes- and after time was up, each boat was placed in a kiddie pool to see if it would float, and if did, how many pennies it would hold. At the first sign of water invading the ship, the penny count was canceled. Kids were riveted in seeing how many pennies each boat could hold, and counted each penny as it dropped in. Most boats were extremely sturdy, and hit our penny limit of 200 coins. We ultimately began dropping pennies in the boat in 10 penny increments, due to time constraints.
- Build racing boats out of a variety of supplies.
We were inspired by multiple sources for this activity: STEM Project: Junk Boats by Malia Hollowell on Playdoughtoplato.com, Which materials make the best boat? by Emma Vanstone on Science-sparks.com, Pool Noodle Boats Water Sensory Bin on Frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtail.com and Wind Powered Boat Eggsperiment #playfulpreschool on Multiples-mom.com
We had a vast array of supplies on hand for kids to build their boats with. When teams had built a boat to their satisfaction, they brought their boat to the kiddie pool and set it afloat. Once in the water, a team member would attempt to blow it across the pool with only a straw, while a referee timed the voyage. Sailing times were then recorded to see who had the fastest time. Teams were allowed to modify their designs based on their performances.
What we would do differently:
Whenever a program calls for kids to build a design of their own, it goes spectacularly well, and this was no exception. Both boat projects were well received and held the kids rapt. The only modification we would suggest is, if you offer pool noodles as a supply, cut them into small sections before allowing the kids to use them. Some very clever kids discovered that longer pool noodles could reach the other side of the pool very, very quickly, with little design modification!
Adaptation for older/younger audience:
This program would work well for a younger audience, both those in grades 1-3, and those is Pre-K and Kindergarten. We would suggest removing the competition element from the program if offered for a younger audience. Additionally, Making Simple Boats that Float by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on Teachpreschool.org has some adorable boat design options, perfectly suited to a younger crowd.
The program would work as planned for an older audience. Although simple in nature, the free build element of this program is ideal for a teen audience, and the competition aspect is a fun angle to help drive the program along.