Boat Building

As we completed our water  study, we looked back at what we’ve learned about water and used that knowledge to construct new knowledge.

Knowing that some things float and some things sink, we had a discussion about the best materials for boat building.  Many of the children insisted wood was the ideal material to use. When asked, How do you know? they referenced back to last week’s float and sink experiments.  All the blocks floated, big ones, little ones, flat ones and cube ones, said one of the boys. Other children said they thought paper would make a good boat. What kind of paper?  I asked. Some suggestions were foil, “shiny” paper, and newspaper. I included a few other materials such as clay, Styrofoam, plastic, wire, tiles, and wax paper. Their challenge was to “make a boat that will float”.

I moved our water table closer to the science area for this exploration—allowing the children to make a boat, test it, and bring it back for a revision if needed.  They approached the task with exuberance!

Some boats were simple: wadded foil or newspaper.

Others were more complicated, incorporating several materials.

But the children used trial and error as well as their prior knowledge to go back to the table and add materials, subtract things, or alter their design and try again. Some were surprised at their own success!

Others were developing theories. Lilly’s theory was less about materials than size.  She thought the bigger the boat was, the more likely it would float. She worked for an entire morning making her “really long boat” and sure enough, when she tested it…success!

Alexia started with a vellum cone filled with balls of wadded aluminum foil. She reworked it into two foil-filled cones, and finally after noticing others’ luck with styrofoam, she added a foam tray beneath the cones for stability.

It’s good for floating, but the tray makes it extra-good, she decided.

The children demonstrated the entire inquiry cycle this week. As a teacher, it was very satisfying to see them connecting ideas and looking for relationships!


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