Grade range: 5-12
Each student uses a small quantity of modeling clay to make a boat that will float in a tub of water. The object is to build a boat that will hold as much weight as possible without sinking. In the process of designing and testing their boats, students discover some of the basic principles of boat design and gain first-hand experience with concepts such as buoyancy and density.
This exercise can stand alone as a process skill activity, or it can be used as an introduction to the topics of density and/or buoyancy, which are addressed in the exercises Floaters and Sinkers and What Floats Your Boat? We recommend that the exercise Paper Towers, be done prior to this one, since the concept of center of gravity may be helpful to students when they analyze their successful and unsuccessful boat designs.