Above Water: Buoyancy & Displacement

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In an investigation called "Shape It!" learners craft tiny boats out of clay, set them afloat on water and then add weight loads to them, in order to explore: how objects stay afloat in water; what the relationship is among surface tension, buoyancy, density and displacement; and how shape, size, and type of material affect an object's ability to remain buoyant. The introductory text discusses how heavy steel ships can float on bodies of water like rivers, bays and oceans.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • medium to large plastic container—wide open top, filled with water
  • 1/2 stick of modeling caly
  • paper clips
  • marbles
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, State of New Jersey, 2006

Funding Source:

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001