The Magic School Bus Ups & Downs

Field Trip Notes
The talk show reporter Gerri Poveri is reporting that there is a monster in Walker Lake (apparently based on the Loch Ness Monster, as it is also plesiosaur-like) and the class is very eager (especially Wanda) to find it. The Bus’s automatic sinking button is broken so the class needs to figure out other way to get it to sink. They learn that by adding weight and "crumpling" the bus it will cause the Bus to sink.   However, at the bottom, they discover that the monster was a fake; Gerri Poveri made the story up to increase her ratings. The have to figure out how to make the bus float again so they can tell the truth to the public.
Make a Sinker Float

Going Hands-On

Time: 20-30 minutes
Group Size: One or two

While trying to sink the Bus, Ms. Frizzle’s class learns that shape and weight are two factors that determine whether an object floats. Your kids can change the shape - but not the weight - of clay balls so they float.

What You Need
  • Modeling clay (at art and toy stores)
  • Several rolls of pennies
  • Bucket filled with water
  • Various objects: nuts, soap, fruit, vegetables, paper clips, jar lids


Talk About It

Gather objects. Ask: Which do you think will float? Sink? Have kids test the objects and sort them into sinkers and floaters. Ask: What might make one object sink and another float?

What To Do
  1. Drop a fist-sized clay ball into the bucket. It will sink. Ask: How can we make the clay float?
  2. Give each team a fist-sized clay ball. Ask: What will happen if you change the shape of the clay balls? How can you change your clay ball’s shape to make it float? Try it!
  3. Give each team a fist-sized clay ball. Ask: What will happen if you change the shape of the clay balls? How can you change your clay ball’s shape to make it float? Try it!


Next Stop
Give each team 20 pennies and challenge them to change their boats so they’ll hold the most pennies. Ask: What happens as you add pennies? (Boats sink lower in water.) How can you change you boat to float more pennies? (Change the shape: Make the boat bigger and the sides higher, to push more water out of the way. High sides also keep water from swamping boats.)
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