All Hands on Deck: Learning Adventures Aboard Old Ironsides
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USS Constitution, Johnson

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What Floats, What Sails?
Learning by experimentation, trial and error

Ask students to bring to class items for making hulls for toy boats. Students might bring in empty juice boxes or yogurt containers, apples, potatoes or bars of soap. Ask students why they think their object will float, and then set the objects adrift in a washtub or other large, watertight container to test the students hypotheses. If an object floats well, have students blow on it to see how well it moves through the water and how its shape helps or hampers movement.

Using the knowledge the class has gained through experimentation, have students bring in objects that might make a good hull. Use index cards and popsicle sticks, plastic straws or other suitable material for sails and masts and have a boat race. To keep students focused on the importance of form and weight rather than just out blowing each other, have students take turns being the wind for one another.

Have on Hand– a basin of water; a mixture of apples, potatoes, bars of soap, juice boxes and/or yogurt containers; index cards, straws and Popsicle sticks

“To emphasize the size of the ship, the students made a paper chain as long as the tallest mast. (What a surprise! We had to go outside to make the chain straight.)”

Linda Anderson, 1st and 2nd grade
Pleasant Dale School
Pleasant Dale, NE

“We compared ships: USS Constitution, Mayflower, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria - compared size (math) and use of ships (social studies).”

Mindy Booth, grade 4 special education
McAuliffe School
Lowell, MA

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