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Imaan Murteza

Lesson: To Sink or Not to Sink: Buoyancy and Density (solid/liquid)

Students: Four students from Mrs. Kurlands 5th grade class
School: Penn Alexander School
Expected Date: 12/8/2014
The lesson plan was adapted from a plan provided by Mr. C. Foster, the elementary science
teacher at PAS.
This lesson will be filmed for future reflection.

Students will gain an understanding of the relationship between the shape and density of
an object and its ability to float in water.

Students will use the steps of the scientific method to design an investigation that
explores that relationship.

PA Standards:
3.1E (Identify change as a variable in describing natural and physical systems).
3.2C (Identify and use the elements of scientific inquiry to solve problems).

The main part of the lesson will be a hands-on investigation of how the shape and weight
of an Aluminum foil boat will affect its ability to float in water. The students will test how many
pennies the boat can take before it sinks. Prior to beginning this investigation, the students will
questioned on what they know so far of density (how close the molecules of a substance are, the
more dense an object the heavier it is). Then, the students will be introduced to the mathematical
method of determining density, mass/volume. The students will not be expected to calculate the
density of objects, the formula is mainly to give them a reference and a mathematical
justification for why a smaller volume (denominator) results in a bigger density. I will introduce
the concept of opposing forces acting on the boat (gravity and mass vs. up thrust of water).
The aim behind the Aluminum boat investigation is to give the students a chance to
independently discover that boat with a larger surface area will float better than a crumpled up
piece of foil of the same size. For this portion of the lesson the students will also be required to
call upon the math lesson I conducted two weeks ago on Metric measurements to measure the
pieces of Al foil.

Vocabulary Words: Density, matter, buoyancy, float, sink, hypothesis, procedure, data,
conclusion, confirm/refute. [Underlined are the words I expect the students to already be
familiar with]


The lesson will begin with an open discussion on what floating and sinking mean. We
will transition to talking about density where I will get an idea of what the students know about
density. From their discussion, I will decide on the level of detail I will go into when teaching the
students about the forces acting on floating objects. [This will be done with the aid of drawings]
The students will work in pairs following a procedure [see end of document for sample] to
measure the pieces of Al foil (10cm by 10 cm) and shape the pieces of Al foil so they can float on
their own and hold the most number of pennies. The students will be required to develop
hypotheses regarding the foil boats and their floating abilities. [If/Then statements] During the
actual investigation the students will record their data in the data chart.
Finally, the students will draw conclusions based on their findings. They will either
confirm or refute their hypotheses.

The choice to teach this lesson was taken after looking through the students curriculum
and seeing that a study of density was an upcoming topic and one deemed appropriate for their
age level. I decided to have the lesson be equally a hands-on activity and a lecture-type lesson.
This was due in part to my trepidation and anxiety over having a completely materials-based,
student-led investigation lesson. This discomfort stems from my inexperience with such types of
lessons and a worry that that inexperience will lead to the students not acquiring any real
I decided to have the students work in pairs since I have observed over the last few weeks
that this group of students seem to work more efficiently and thoughtfully when they have one
partner to bounce ideas off of instead of the whole group. Whereas when they work alone, there

is a tendency for a couple of the students to reach their frustration level quickly and become

10x10cm squares of Al foil
Metric Rulers
Pennies (at least 10 per student)
Plastic container
Chart Paper
Investigation Packet (includes: Procedure steps, worksheet, and lined paper for notes]
Lesson Plan:

Introduction: [Time 6 minutes]

Ask the students whether the pennies on their own would float? Ask students to give
examples of objects that would float. Why do they float/sink? [Expected answers: heavier that
water, density]
Speak to students about how density is determined mathematically. [Density=
mass/volume] So the greater the mass and the smaller the object, the denser it is. [T: can you
think of any examples of this in real life? Examples where something sank because it had a small

Central idea: The larger the base of the floating object, the more buoyant it is.

Investigation: [Time 35 minutes]

Review the scientific method with the students. Write the steps on a piece of chart paper.

Explain to students the investigation they will do. We will be creating Aluminum boats
and filling them with passengers or pennies. The first question the students will attempt to
answer is how many pennies can the boat carry before it sinks? The second, why does a

10x10 piece of foil crumpled into a compact ball sink in water while a 10x10 piece of foil that is
flat floats?
Distribute the investigation packet and read the steps of the procedure with the students. Go over
the chart to make sure the students understand it.

This would be the students prior knowledge of density and boats in general.

The students will have 1-2 minutes to create a hypothesis [Ifthen statements] in pairs.

Experiment/ Collecting Data:

The students work in pairs to construct the boats and conduct their investigation
according to the procedure outlined in the packet [see end for sample]. Data is recorded in the
data chart.

Analysis of Results:
[During this part, emphasize the importance of respecting one another and not interrupting.]
Each pair will present their findings and compare their results to the other groups data.


Stop here, put away the packet. Eyes on the board -------------------------------

Forces: [Time 10 minutes]

The large base means that the object has more contact with the water. The water exerts a
force on the foil, keeping it afloat. [T: Can anybody give me another example of a force in
nature? Expected answers: gravity, magnets, wind] Gravity is another force acting on the foil, it
is acting in the opposite direction of the water force (the up-thrust). As long as the up-thrust is
greater than the weight (gravity x mass) of the object, it will float. [A drawing on the chart paper
will accompany this explanation to make it easier for the students to grasp.]

The students will answer the questions they posed earlier and either confirm or refute their

I will assess students understanding by reviewing their written work as well as keeping
track of their participation and discussion. I have also found myself depending on the students
non-verbal cues to help me gauge their interest and whether they are comprehending the
material. I will also observe their use of the materials and their level of comfort in handling
Possible Extensions:
Students can discuss ways in which buoyancy is utilized in our daily lives. Another
possible activity would be to have students calculate whether a boat will sink or float based on
the forces acting on it. (Water exerting 3, gravity 1, weight of passengers 1.5. Will the boat sink
or float?)

Further Work:
If I were to teach another lesson on this topic, I would investigate with students how
density works in liquid/liquid situations. Another possible lesson is investing how surface area
and its effect on forces impacts our daily life (walking in snow in boots vs. snow shoes, drills,
stilettoes in a gardenetc.)

Scientific Method:
Q ueen - question
R achel - research
H opes - hypothesis
E very - experiment
C oward - collect data
G ains - graph/analyze data
C ourage conclusion

Foil Boat Instruction Sheet

You and your partner will use the piece of aluminum foil provided to design your
own foil boat. Please follow the procedure below. Remember to write your
hypothesis, on your experiment sheet, in an Ifthen statement before you and
your partner test your boats on the water. Make sure you have all your materials
below and begin.

Two squares of aluminum foil

Metric ruler
Pennies (approximately 10 per student)
Plastic container


Each partner will measure the length of each square of Aluminum foil and
record the measurement on their experiment sheet.
Each partner will shape one of the foil squares into a boat.
Describe in your Boat Design section why you believe your boat will float
with passengers (pennies)
Fill a container with 3 liters of water.
When the water is still, place your boat on top of the water (if your boat
floats, leave it on the water. If it sinks, redesign it and test it until it floats).
While the boat is in the water, begin to place the pennies on the boat (one at
a time) until it begins to sink.
Record the number of pennies that caused the boat to sink on the Data chart.
Repeat steps 6-7 for two trials.
Shape a third aluminum foil square into a ball (squeeze it into the smallest
foil ball you can form).
Place the foil ball on the water for two trials.
Record your observations on the Data chart.

Name: _____________________________


Experiment 4: Foil Boats

The length of the Aluminum foil square is _____ x ______.

Question: Which boat design will hold the most passengers?

Hypothesis: (Ifthen)

Boat Design Notes:



Trial 1

Trial 2

(Number of pennies that

sank the boat)

(Number of pennies that

sank the boat)

Number of

Foil Boat

Foil Ball