Ahoy there! Teaching science with a pirate theme is fun and exciting! Boats are a natural topic in pirate science lessons and foil boats introduce density and buoyancy. This is Part 3 of our pirate science activities: drop anchor and try invisible ink and make your own compass.
Teaching with a theme works well with organizing science lessons into stations. When you don’t have enough resources for every group of children to do the same lab, stations can be the solution. Using stations is also a great differentiation technique. See Part 1 for my tips for organizing station labs.
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Foil boats instructions
- Cut squares of aluminum foil 12 inches x 12 inches.
- Measure the top opening of your water container. Design boats that will fit in the container. Fold and/or cut the foil to make your boats. Use tape if necessary.
- Fill each boat with rice. Make sure the rice is level and even with the top sides of each boat.
- Find the volume of each boat: carefully pour the rice into a measuring cup. You may have to do this more than once and add the measurements together to get the total volume of rice. How many milliliters of rice does each boat hold? Why is this equivalent to cubic centimeters?
- Place each boat in the water. Does it float? Write your observations.
- Carefully place pennies in the boat. How many does it take to sink your boat? Write down the number your boat holds just before it sinks. Use dry pennies for each boat you are testing.
Each penny has a mass of about 2.5 g (if you have a balance, you can check this). Find the density of each boat: Find the mass of your cargo by multiplying the number of pennies times 2.5. Density is mass divided by volume.
What is the density of water in g/cm3? How does this compare to the density of your boats?
Pirates sail the seven seas! Try the experiment again with salt added to the water. Add 1 tbsp (15 cc) to 2 cups (500 ml) of water in your container. How is it different from fresh water?
- With a large tub of water, place one can of Diet Coke and one can of Coke in the water. What happens? Calculate the density and buoyancy and explain. Try different sodas with different sweeteners. Observe and explain.
- Use empty 8 ounce milk cartons and duct tape to make a boat large enough to float a 2 liter bottle filled with sand. You will need a pool or large amount of water to test this out. Can you design a boat with gallon milk bottles that would hold you without sinking?
- aluminum foil
- pennies or washers (you may need a couple hundred!)
- aquarium or large tub to hold water
- measuring cup with ml markings
- scissors, tape, ruler
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
What is the science?
Content: engineering design, forces and interactions, density, buoyancy, fluids, Archimede’s Principle
To float, an object has to be less dense than the water it’s in. This can be confusing because the floating object can be made of a substance that is heavier than water. Density is not the same as weight! A boat full of air can float because its calculated density is the mass of the entire boat with air divided by the volume. This number would be very different if the boat is full of metal or water. Buoyant force points upward while the force of gravity points down. An object will float when the buoyant force is larger than the object’s gravitational force.
- Shipping Science: Building a Boat That Can Carry Cargo from Scientific American
- How much weight can your boat float? from Science Buddies
- Design your own penny boat from PBS Kids
- Buoyancy simulation from PhET interactive simulations, University of Colorado Boulder
- Buoyancy and Archimede’s Principle from seaperch, Office of Naval Research
- Regular and diet coke from University of Pennsylvania Physics
- Milk carton boat race rules from Portland, Oregon
- Avast me hearties from Lawrence Hall of Science
- A pirate’s life for me from Scientific American
- Pirates unit study from The Home School Mom
- September 19: Talk like a pirate from Hobsess blog
- Captain Hook costume from Inspired by Familia
- Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge from NC Maritime Museums
Let’s talk story
Me mateys Kelly and Jen love pirates as much as I do. This is the third in a series of science ideas for pirate theme we put together. Here’s some of our pirate inspiration: Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Pirates of Penzance, Pirates of the Carribean, The Pirate Queen, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
In North Carolina, Blackbeard is “our” pirate (other states claim him, too!) Along with science, you can tie pirates to social studies. Other famous pirates: Barbarossa, Thomas Cavendish, Sir Francis Drake, Charlotte de Berry, Sir Henry Morgan, Black Bart, Stede Bonnet, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Jean Lafitte, and Grace O’Malley.
I’ll be looking for comments below, or contact me at lisa [at] thecasabouquet[dot]com.
Thank you for sharing at #ThursdayFavoriteThings. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too!
Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too!