Boats Afloat

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In this water activity, learners build boats that float and sink. First, learners listen to the book, "Who Sank the Boat" and practice making predictions throughout the story. Then, learners make boats out of aluminum foil, recycled food trays, and plastic plates to see how many pennies their boats can hold before they sink. This activity is part of the curriculum Explore Water, related to Peep and the Big Wide World, a preschool science series on public television. The activity starts on page 42 of the PDF.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 6

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
  • aluminum foil
  • recycled food trays and/or other recycled containers
  • plastic, newspapers, and/or towels to cover the floor
  • water table, pool, or container
  • water
  • water smocks (garbage bags with holes for head and arms work well.)
  • small plastic plates
  • pennies


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Literature
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • PEEP and the Big Wide World


  • All rights reserved, WGBH, 2005

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation