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Penny Boat

Make a boat that can hold lots of pennies and still float. 


  • water table(s), large tubs, or plastic wading pool, if outside (limit the number of children at a water table or tub to four or five, or use multiple water tables and/or tubs) 
  • 6-inch squares of aluminum foil
  • pennies
  • chart paper, for recording how many pennies each boat could hold


Encourage children to use words related to sinking and floating such as tip, tilt, shape, weight, leak, and waves, along with science process words such as observe, notice, compare, same, different, change, test, and predict.

Key Science Concepts

  • If you add enough weight to a floating object, it will sink.


Tell children that they will make boats out of aluminum foil. Then they’ll add pennies to find out how many their boat can hold.      

  1. Have children make boats by bending and molding the aluminum foil.
  2. Once they’ve made a boat that floats, have them put pennies on it, one at a time. Tell them to keep going until the boat sinks. Have them count how many pennies their boat held.
  3. Record the number of pennies their boats held on the chart.
  4. Have children build a second boat and try again. Ask, How do you think you’ll build your boat this time so it will hold more pennies?
  5. Take photos/videos of their boats, which you can look at together later.

Reflect and Share

Look at the chart together and list the number of pennies each boat held before it sank. Then look at the boats that held the most pennies and ask:

  • What do you think made this boat hold more pennies?
  • Where did you put the pennies in the boat?
  • Did anyone’s boat tilt and sink because of where you put the pennies?

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