Challenge the children to find which boat will fit the most animals in it before it sinks!
Early Learning Goal links
- Mathematics ELG: Numerical Patterns
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Float, sink, sunk, sank, rise, rose, risen, size, big, small, heavy, light, bottom, top, surface, under, side, shape, predict, test, more, less
What to do
Remind the children that marine engineer build boats and other structures that go on or in the water. You could show them our marine engineer poster. Tell the children that marine engineers are curious, and today they need to find out which container will fit the most animals/objects in it before it sinks.
Challenge the children to load the animals/objects into the boat carefully. You could use our animals in a boat provocation poster.
Depending on their stage of development, encourage the children to count how many items fit into each container and record this on a chart or labels, or to use a winner label to decide which container held the most.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- Which container do you think will hold the most animals? Why?
- Can you count how many animals you put in?
- Which containers hold more/less animals?
- Do big containers hold more animals?
- Do small containers hold less animals?
- Which shape container is best for holding animals?
- What is the best way to put the animals into the containers so you get more in?
- Which container is the best one and why?
- Are there any other containers that you would like to test?
Other things to try
- You could ask the children to collect different containers from around the setting to investigate.
- You could try using different sized animals and investigating which container is best for each animal.
- Remember to refer to the children as marine engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:“You have been curious like a marine engineer by investigating which containers make the best boat…”
The science of floating and sinking
We have put together some useful information about the science of floating and sinking to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
Why do the animals sink the boats?
There are two forces acting on objects in the water. The weight of the object pulls down, while the upthrust of the water pushes it up. If the weight of the object is equal to or less than the up thrust, it floats. Things that float are buoyant. If the weight of the object is greater than the up thrust, the object will sink.
If we put too many animals in the boat, the weight is greater than the upthrust and the boat will sink.
If the animals are tilting the boat so that one side dips into the water, like in the “Who Sank the Boat?” story, the boat will fill will water, become too heavy and sink. This is why the arrangement of the animals in the boat is important- they need to be balanced!
What is upthrust?
This is the upward force pushing towards the surface. When you try to hold a beach ball, empty plastic bottle or inflatable under the water, you can feel this force pushing it towards the surface. The upthrust force is equal to the weight of water displaced by the object.
What you’ll need
- A water tray, bucket or bowl
- A variety of empty containers such as yogurt pot, cups or margarine tubs
- Plastic animals, roughly the same size (or blocks etc)
- Recording chart or labels and pens or pencils or winner label if you wish to record the activity
- Animals in a boat provocation
- The marine engineer poster
10 minutes or so.Marine Engineer poster