Forces and Motion Lab NGSS MS-PS2-2 Density and Buoyancy


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This product makes learning about density and buoyancy fun and it’s a great challenge that the kids really get into! It’s easy prep and the only materials you need are about $1.50 in pennies per group, an approximately 20x15cm piece of aluminum foil and a bucket full of water.

I show a quick clip from YouTube about how the titanic sank in terms of density and buoyancy. Then we discuss as a class how adding pennies to an aluminum foil boat is like the Titanic taking on water after it hit the iceberg and how the added mass affects density and buoyant force.

I then have the students state their hypothesis, “If I place____ pennies on my boat, then it will remain floating.” Typically, students predict anywhere from 5-20 pennies and to their amazement student can place anywhere from 50-150 pennies! After we discuss their hypothesis as a class I have them sketch and discuss their prototype and they must label the direction of gravity and buoyant force.

I have one piece of 20x15cm piece of foil prepared for each group along with a bucket for water and enough pennies for about $1.50 per group. The students can then begin to build their boat, but emphasis that aluminum foil is delicate and can tear very easily. Also, remind them to count one penny at a time and then record the total number of pennies underneath their prototype drawing.

We then discuss the results, talk about what group placed the most pennies on their boat and why using the equation for density. This is a good time to emphasize that keeping volume as big as possible keeps the density down and makes the boat more buoyant.

After the discussion, I tell them to discuss like engineers the problems with their prototype, how to fix those problems and sketch a redesigned boat.

I then pass out another piece of foil and the students build their redesigned boat. Hopefully they learned from their prototype that keeping the volume larger increases buoyancy and they were able to place more pennies on their 2nd try.


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