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Building Boats




Project Description (4)

Students will become engineers by inventing and building their own boats. They will also be practicing their math skills by adding up how much their boat will cost based on the supplies that they used. Students will learn about force and motion and what causes a stationary object to move. Lastly, the will have basic idea of density and buoyancy.

Recommended Grade 1st grade
Sciece Topic Force and Motion

Force and Motion: North Carolina Standards
EX.1.P.1 Understand how pushes or pulls change the motion of an object.
EX.1.P.1.1 Identify what is causing a stationary object to move: a push or pull. (boats)

Engineering: NGSS
NGSS: (The problem is given in this activity) K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.


Why do things float? It has to do with their density. Density describes how much mass is packed into an object. Mass is the stuff that everything is made of. Something with more stuff will be more massive. Water is pretty dense and only objects with a greater density than water will sink.

Demonstration: wood (will float), a stone (will sink), what happens to a piece of cardboard (it will float at first but once it absorbs enough water it will sink)?

Vocabulary Words
1. Density
2. Mass

Learning Outcomes

1.Students should be able to describe what happens to the mass of the boat when the pennies are added
2.Students should be able to describe what forces are acting on the boat before and after the pennies are added and what direction those forces are acting in.
**For example, before the pennies are added the water is pushing up on the boat and the boat is pushing down on the water. After the pennies are added it increases the mass of the boat, so the boat is pushing down with more force on the water. If the mass of the boat is great enough the boat will sink because the pennies and boat are pushing down harder then the water is pushing up. **
3. Practicing Patience
4. Failing-Up


-Aluminum foil
-Popsicle Sticks
-Scotch Tape
-Bin of water
-At least 10 pennies
-Printer paper
-Money Chart

1. Fill a bin with water
2. Gather Supplies
3. Optional: Supply list prices worksheet


1. Introduce the project and then introduce the students to the basics of buoyancy and density by referencing the description and content above including the demonstration.
2. Show them all the supplies they are allowed to use and that they will be testing their boats by seeing how many pennies their boat can hold.
3. Then show them how each item floats in the water so they can get an idea of which items will work best.
4. Send them back to their tables to draw out the boats that want to build
5. As they finish give them the money chart and have them add up how much their boat is going to cost
6. Optional:Once you see both and approve the may get the materials they need and begin building
7. Have then gather the supplies on their list and begin building
8. Give them 15 minutes or so to build their design
9. Once they are done building and have cleaned up have them circle around the container of water with their boats
10. Have each student test their own boats and keep track of the price of each boat as well as how many pennies it can hold.

1. You can reflect on the price vs. how many pennies their boats held
2. Talk about what item worked better than others and why that is

Time Estimate: 60-75 minutes


What worked:
This project was hectic but VERY successful. The students had a great time seeing how many pennies their boat and classmates boats.

What we would change:
The only thing that didn't go well was having enough time. We took 60 minutes to do this all and were not able to debrief afterwards. If possible, take more than 60 minutes to complete this activity!