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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.
The main part of the lesson will be a hands-on investigation of how the shape of an
Aluminum foil boat will affect its ability to float and carry weight in water. The students will
test how many pennies the boat can take before it sinks. This activity will serve as a model
through which students can explore and gain a deeper understanding for the scientific concept
that governs design and construction in the real world. The practical, or engineering, aim of this
investigation is to prove that a boat with a larger base will carry a heavier load before sinking

Comment [NRB1]: I really like that you are

having them think in terms of design.

than a boat with a smaller base. 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
bases of their boats.
The scientific aim is to understand the reasons behind this fact. First, the students will

Comment [NRB2]: This section is much


understand that due to the larger base, the weight is distributed and so the forces pushing the boat
down are not concentrated into a smaller area. Second, that a larger area means that the upward
forces from the water have more of the boat to push against. Third, that a big boat and a small
boat will weigh the same, since they are both made of the same amount of Aluminum foil, but
they take up different amounts of space (volume) which means an increased density.

The first part of the lesson will be equal parts a discussion and a lecture format while the second
part will be the hands-on investigation. The lesson will begin with a discussion on why things
float or sink. I will get examples from students about things that typically float/sink. [Hopefully,
pennies will be mentioned by someone.] I will then explain to the students the forces that act on
a floating object (gravity/weight and buoyancy) with the aid of a drawing. [see attachment]

Comment [NRB3]: These are still quite a

few ideas, but lets see how it goes and which
ideas the students come away with. Inquiry,
you know.

For the hands-on portion of the lesson, the students will be divided into pairs. The students will
work in pairs following a procedure [see end of document for sample] to measure the pieces of
Al foil (10x10 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. Then, the students will draw conclusions based on their
findings. They will either confirm or refute their hypotheses.
After we have concluded this part of the experiment, the each pair will be asked to create
a boat with the dimensions I give them. One pair will make a boat with a larger base, while the
other pair will make one with a smaller base. During this investigation we will prove irrefutably
that a boat with a larger base is harder to sink. The last idea to be discussed will be that the
measure of the weight of each boat compared to its size is known as density.
To conclude we will draw connections between what we have proven to the real world
and how the shape of materials can alter their properties.

The choice to teach this lesson was taken after looking through the students curriculum
and speaking with their science teacher. I learned 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-

Comment [NRB4]: I do really like that you

have set up an investigation that requires the
students to practice a skill that you taught
Comment [iM5]: Having the information
from one subject enhance the learning in
another is something I was very keen on from
the beginning and Im glad that I have a
chance to do that here.
Comment [NRB6]: Here is sounds like
students are making their own design. Later it
seems as though you are specifying the larger
bottom and smaller bottom. I think it might
work to tell them to make sure that the boat
bottom needs to be flat. Then they can build
the boat and you could have them measure
the dimensions of the bottom (8 by 8 , for
example) and the height of the sides (1 cim in
my example. Then you will have the data later
to show the relationship that the boat with
larger bottom surfaces held more pennies.
Comment [NRB7]: Maybe I misunderstood.
Are these actually 2 different sets of trials, one
where they make boats randomly and then
one where you provide the dimensions? If
that is the case you can ignore what I said in
the comment above.
Comment [NRB8]: Resolved below. Great.

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 my inexperience will lead to
the lesson not leaving behind any useful residue.
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
disengaged and disruptive.

Comment [NRB9]: Great that you have

observed and thought about this.
Comment [iM10]: It was difficult not to.
Comment [NRB11]: Very reasonable


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 engage in practices that will develop their scientific reasoning abilities by
questioning, hypothesizing and conducting investigations.

Students will use models to make the real-world applications of density and buoyancy
more accessible.

Framework Practices:
In this lesson students will:
1) Ask questions to drive their scientific exploration.
2) They will use conceptual models to answer those questions.
Cross-cutting concept:

Cause and effect. The idea that the boat would sink because the forces pushing it down
become greater that the ones pushing it up.

Structure and function: a wide base distributes the weight of an object making it more
buoyant. Therefore, rafts and other traditionally used devices of floatation are used to
carry heavier items that would otherwise sink.

Comment [NRB12]: These are excellent!

Disciplinary Core ideas:

PS.2.Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

PS.2.B Types of interactions

Formatted: List Paragraph, Bulleted +

Level: 1 + Aligned at: 0.25" + Indent at:
Comment [NRB13]: Please include one
Core Disciplinary idea.

Lesson Plan:
Go over class rules with students. Refer back as needed.


10x10cm squares of Al foil

Metric Rulers
Pennies (at least 10 per student)
Plastic containers
Chart Paper
Investigation Packet (includes: Procedure steps, worksheet, and lined paper for notes]

Comment [NRB14]: I thought they were

going to measure them - so dont you need
pieces that are larger?
Comment [iM15]: The student will not
know that they are 10x10cm

Introduction: [Time 6 minutes]

Why do certain things float while others sink?
Can anyone give me an example of things that typically float/sink? (make a list)
We are going to take a look at the forces that act on an object in the water. What do you think a
force is? Examples (gravity, magnets)
Draw boat. Explain that:

A boat has its weight pushing it down, plus the weight of everything it is carrying.

It also has the force of the water pushing it up. [water cannot be compressed]

Investigation: [Time 25 minutes]

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?
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.

Each pair of students will design a boat and predict how many pennies their boat will be able to
carry. The students will try their best to justify their design choices. [Depending on time, this
will either be oral or written.]

Comment [NRB16]: It is quite possible that

(unlike water cannot be compressed below)
that they have been taught a force is a push or
a pull.
Comment [NRB17]: Probably not
Comment [iM18]: This was taught to me as
a property of water in early elementary. Is
that the case in US schools?

The students will conduct their investigation according to the procedure outlined in the
packet [see end for sample]. Data is recorded in the data chart.
Each pair will present their findings and compare their results to the other groups data.
[During this part, emphasize the importance of respecting one another and not interrupting.]

Next, each pair will construct a different boat according to my specifications. One group
will make a boat that has a wide base while the other group will made one with a smaller base.

Comment [NRB19]: OK, I see it now - this is


Each group will begin adding pennies until one of the boats sinks. This will help us prove that a
larger base is more buoyant.
If something has a large base, what does that tell us about its volume? Which of these
boats has a bigger volume? Do they have the same weight, the same amount of matter/stuff? [If
students are unsure, measure them]

Main Idea: Density is the relationship between the amount of matter in an object and its
size. If the amount of matter stays the same (as with the foil) and the object gets bigger, it
will have a lower density.

Students will give examples where density and buoyancy are in effect in our daily lives (ships,
ice bergs)

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

Comment [NRB20]: This is so important.

You may be able to see yourself doing it in
your video tape or observers notes.

In case students finish early, a 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. I would also go into further detail about the molecules and how
their arrangement in relation to each other affects density (water vs. ice)

Comment [NRB21]: Oh no. I really meant

that you should not forget this in the final

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, 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.
Both partners will work on shaping the Aluminum foil into a boat shape.
Describe in your Boat Design section why you believe your boat will float
with passengers (pennies)
In the container, 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 take on water and sink.
Record the number of pennies that caused the boat to sink on the Data chart.
Repeat steps 6-7.
Shape a third aluminum foil square into a boat designed by your teacher.
Place the boat onto the water and add pennies until it begins to take on
water and sink.
Record your observations on the Data chart.

Comment [NRB22]: OK, so they are not

cutting out the 10 by 10 square, just
measuring it. Thats fine.
Comment [NRB23]: So they are free to
design what ever boat they want from the
foil? Any desire to make any measurements of
their boat before it goes into the water? Are
you suggesting a shape?
Comment [iM24]: The way I see it, if both
groups end up designing similar boats I will
have them design a second one according to
my specifications (with one being larger than
the other). If each group designs a different
boat, I will eliminate the second part of the
experiment and work off of the students
original designs.
Comment [NRB25]: See, this is what I am
worried about - an empty flat bottomed
aluminum boat will probably float. A boat
shaped like the hull of a ship might not - but
with some pennies in it to help hold it
upright it might.
Comment [iM26]: Im not particularly
looking for a straight standing boat here. Just
one that will not take on water and sink.

Name: _____________________________


Experiment 4: Foil Boats

The Area of the Aluminum foil square is _____ x ______ cm.

Question: Which boat design will hold the most passengers?


Boat Design Notes:


Comment [NRB27]: Despite what I said

above I am completely fine with this format
for reporting on the investigation.


Trial 1

Trial 2

(Number of pennies that sank

the boat)

(Number of pennies that sank

the boat)

Average Number
of Pennies

Foil Boat A
(your design)
Foil Boat B
(___x___ cm)




Comment [NRB28]: So here it looks like 2

trials. When I read it above it sounded like you
were suggesting doing it once, and then 2
more trials.
Comment [NRB29]: Here you do seem to
be comparing one foil boat to the foil ball.
What about all of the other boat shapes in the
room? You have all this great data - shouldnt
the kids be comparing the results of all of the
different boats to figure out which design
worked better and why?
Comment [iM30]: I completely agree. As
you can see, Ive changed the plan so now the
students will get a chance to design their own
boat and compare it to the other groups, then
design a specific boat with my dimensions.
The reason Ive left the dimensions blank is
that I do not want the students rushing to
make the second boat while their classmates
are still working on the first.