by Bethany Hernandez | Lakeshore Product Developer
From paper airplanes to plastic-bag parachutes, kids love to see what they can create from everyday items. Our lesson plan will captivate students as they design and construct aluminum foil boats—then see how many pennies they can transport safely across a plastic-tub ocean! Along the way, kids will get hands-on experience with the concept of buoyancy.
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Note: This lesson is designed for 1st–2nd graders. While this lesson plan was created for the classroom, it’s also a fun activity to try at home!
Download the lesson plan.
- Students will predict how many pennies an aluminum foil boat will hold before it sinks.
- Students will test their predictions and record the results.
You will need:
Before you start the activity, get your students excited to learn about floating…and sinking! Ask if anyone has ever traveled on a boat. Ask if they can remember what kind of boat it was and have them estimate how many passengers might have been on board. Ask students if there can ever be too many people on a boat. If so, what might happen?
Keep the discussion going until kids understand that too much weight on a boat may cause it to sink.
- Give kids a Float Your Boat Record Sheet. Announce that they’re investigators. Their mission is to discover how many pennies can float in a foil boat before it sinks.
- Pass out large sheets of aluminum foil and ask kids to bend and fold the foil any way they like to make a boat—as long as it’s designed to hold pennies and float.
- Ask kids to record their boat’s design in the record sheet. Explain that it will help their investigations.
- Have kids guess how many pennies their boat will hold. Be sure to write that number in the record sheet.
- Divide the class into groups or pairs.
- Provide each group with a tub full of water and a handful of pennies. It’s time to test the predictions!
- Have kids add penny passengers to their boat until it sinks! Ask them to look at the record sheet. Did their boat hold more or fewer pennies than they predicted? Record the actual amount of pennies each boat held to wrap up the investigation.
You can keep the learning going long after the first investigation is over. Talk with your students about their boat designs. Ask them why they think some boats held more pennies than others without sinking. Explain that boats with greater surface area have greater buoyancy—and can therefore hold more weight. Finally, invite students to share how they would update their boats to hold more pennies and why.