Float Your Boat

Standards Met: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) PS2.A: Force and Motion; ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

What You Need: Toy Boat, by Randall de Sève; for each small group, heavy-duty aluminum foil, a tub of water, 50 pennies, and paper towels

What To Do: Before you cast off into this science adventure, show students a picture of a ship or boat and discuss its parts. The body is called the hull, while the front is called the bow and the back the stern. Read Toy Boat aloud, pausing to discuss the pictures of boats and their parts.

Next, put students in small groups and give each child a 15-by-15- centimeter sheet of aluminum foil. Instruct each group to make their own boat using the foil. Students should then take turns putting their boats into their tubs of water. Next, tell students to find out how many pennies each boat will hold—gently placing in one penny at a time until it sinks. (The last penny that makes the boat sink doesn’t count!) After every boat is tested, groups should determine whose boat held the most pennies, draw a picture of that boat, and explain which boat shape was most conducive to holding pennies.

What Would Ben Do?

Standards Met: NGSS ETS1.A: Engineering Design; ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

What You Need: Now & Ben, by Gene Barretta; for each team, a sheet of poster board

What To Do: Read Now & Ben aloud, then talk about Benjamin Franklin’s feats. Afterward, explore the difference between an invention (something that is created) and a discovery (something that is found for the first time). Make a chart of Franklin’s inventions and discoveries.

Segue into a discussion about how inventions are designed to solve problems. Put students in teams and give each team a real-life problem. (For example: Getting out of bed to open or close your bedroom door is a real pain. Can you build something that will do that from across the room?)

Instruct teams to do some research to find ways that others have solved this problem or related problems. Then, have teams brainstorm different options to solve the problem. They should choose the best idea and design it on a sheet of poster board, including the name of the invention, labeled parts, and a list of materials. Invite teams to share their designs with the class.

Ducks Don’t Get Wet

Standard Met: NGSS LS1.A: Structure and Function

What You Need: Just Ducks!, by Nicola Davies; for each small group, a plastic container or water bottle with screw-on lid, water, vegetable oil, food coloring, a spray bottle, and two feathers from craft store

What To Do: Share Just Ducks! with your class. Discuss key terms, including preening, a behavior in which ducks groom themselves to spread oil over their feathers. Next, ask students to hypothesize what prevents ducks from getting too cold or too wet.

For your experiment, explore how preening keeps a duck dry. Put students in groups of four, giving each group a plastic container half full of water. Put two drops of food coloring in each container, seal the lid, and shake. Have students note their observations. Next, give each group a small, disposable cup one-third full of vegetable oil to add to their container. Reseal the lid and shake again. Students should observe what happens right away and after two minutes. They will see the oil separate from the colored water. Ask students how this relates to a duck’s use of oil to preen itself. (The water won’t mix with the oil on the duck’s feathers.) To dive deeper into this concept, give each group two feathers, vegetable oil, and spray bottles with water. Lay one feather flat on the table, spray it with water, and observe how the water soaks the feather. Then, students should dip their fingers in the oil and coat the second feather, then lay it flat on the table and spray it with water. Students will observe that they’ve preened a feather as little balls of water form on the oil.

Shadows and the Sun

Standard Met: NGSS ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

What You Need: Twilight Comes Twice, by Ralph Fletcher; sidewalk chalk

What To Do: Read Twilight Comes Twice aloud. Ask students to articulate what twilight is (the time between day and night, and night and day) and when it happens (at dawn and at dusk). Then, explore how the sun changes positions in the sky from dawn to dusk. (It’s best to do this on a clear, sunny day.)

First thing in the morning, head to the playground or another surface where you can use chalk. Pair off students and give each pair a piece of chalk. As one partner stands still, the other partner should trace his or her shadow and write the student’s name and the time. Have partners switch and repeat. Cautioning students not to look directly at the sun, instruct them to point at the sky in the sun’s direction and notice their shadows in the opposite direction.

At noon, go back outside. Have students put their feet in the same spot as in the morning and trace new shadows. Students should compare the size and direction of the two shadows. Again, ask students to point in the direction of the sun. Later in the afternoon, return to the spot and trace a third shadow. Discuss when shadows were the longest and shortest, in which direction the shadows changed, and how the position of the sun changed. To cap off the day, have students conclude why they think their shadow changed throughout the day (as the position of the sun changed, the direction and size of their shadows changed, too).


Adapted from Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry, K–5.

For more information about the Picture-Perfect Science series, please visit www.nsta.org/publications/press/picture.aspx.


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