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Easy Kindergarten Science Fair Project

VirginiaLynne is an educator and mom of 5. Her science fair articles are from projects that competed successfully (local, state, national).

Kindergarten Science Fair Project: Which Boat Can Float?

Kindergarten Science Fair Project: Which Boat Can Float?

Before You Start

To start, science experiments for kindergarteners should be easy and fun. It should take about an hour and teach scientific processes like hypothesis and testing. Finally, the experiment should be about things kindergarteners understand.

Kindergarteners have a limited attention span, so if possible, do this experiment over a couple of days, or at least take some breaks. Here is how to break up the task. When working with children on science experiments for a science fair, we generally do all of the experiments.

Do the question and guessing (hypothesis). When working with children on science experiments for a science fair, we generally do all of the experiments.

  1. Make the boats and float them. Parents take pictures for the board.
  2. Write out your results and conclusions. Kids can dictate answers to parents.
  3. Write or type up your experiment. Parents can help with this part too.
  4. Put science experiment board together.

Kindergarten Science Experiment: "Which Boat Can Float"

Question: What shape of foil boat can hold the most pennies?

This science fair experiment is easy, fun and a great introduction to the scientific method because kids generally can't guess the right answer (neither can many adults!). It is the perfect project to do with a large group if you want to demonstrate how to do a science experiment. I've done it many times with a whole classroom of kids, by putting them into small groups to make their boat.

Materials Needed

  • Foil
  • Notebook and pencil or pen for scientific log
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Big tub filled with water
  • Pennies (or use washers or large paper clips as weights)
  • Towel

Instructions for Brainstorming Boat Shapes

Instructions from Parent or Teacher: What shape of boat can hold the most? In this experiment, you will be making boats out of foil that are different shapes. You will float each boat on the water and then drop in pennies one by one. You will stop when the boat sinks. Your goal is to try to figure out which shape of boat can hold the most pennies. What different kinds of shapes could a boat be?

Activity: Give students pieces of foil and have them play with it to make it into boats that are different shapes. As they play with it, have them tell you the different shapes they make. They can draw pictures of the different shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, log shaped, canoe, deep boat, flat boat etc.). Talk about what sort of boat they think would hold the most pennies.

Teach How Science Experiments Work

Instruction from teacher or parent: When a scientist wants to learn whether something is true or not, they do an experiment. One of the rules of an experiment is that everything should be the same except for one thing. That one thing that changes is called a "variable." In this experiment the things that are the same are that each boat is made from the same size piece of foil. Each boat is floated one by one on the same tub of water, and you will fill each boat with pennies one by one. The variable is the shape of the boat. That is how you will be able to figure out which shape of boat holds the most pennies.

Why Things Float or Sink: Buoyancy Video

Student Activity: Making Foil Boats

  1. Make 6 different shaped boats using one piece of foil each.
  2. Your foil should be all the same size squares, 6 inches or 8 inches works well.
  3. If you tear the foil, start again with a new piece.
  4. Try to make boats that are very different so you will get a chance to see what happens when the pennies are put in them.
  5. Name the boats by using their shape (examples: triangle boat, log boat, square boat, flat boat, canoe boat).

Teaching How to Make a Hypothesis

Instruction from parent or teacher: Building your boats is what scientists call making an "experimental design" which is coming up with a way to test an idea. In this case, the idea is that different shapes of boats will hold different amounts of pennies. We are using foil boats, but we could build our boats out of modeling clay or paper or something else too.

The next part of making a science experiment is to make a guess, which scientists call a "hypothesis." In this case, we are going to guess how many pennies each boat will hold until it sinks.

Student Activity: Making a Hypothesis

  1. Look at your boats. Which boat do you think will hold the most pennies before it sinks? Which do you think will hold the least?
  2. Line the boats up in order on a table. Put the one you think will hold the most pennies first, and the one you think will hold the least about of pennies before sinking last.
  3. Use a sharpie marker to number the boats 1-6. Use #1 for the boat you think will hold the most pennies, and #6 for the boat that will hold the least.

Teaching How to Chart Your Results

Instruction from parent or teacher: Every time a scientist does an experiment, they have to write down their hypothesis and their results in his or her scientific log. You are going to do that too. You have lined up your boats but now we will use words and a chart to keep track of what happens when we float them in the water and put in pennies. Scientists often use charts or graphs to show the results of their experiments as a kind of picture.

Which Boat Floats Experiment Chart

Have children name their boats, make guesses of how many pennies the boat can hold, and then perform the experiment to see how many the boat really held. Have them practice being good observers by noticing how the boat sinks. Does it sink slowly or q

Boat NameGuess of how many pennies before boat sinksReal number it held before sinkingHow boat sank

Experiment Instructions

Instructions from teacher or parent: Now you are ready to see if you are right. You are going to "test your hypothesis" by floating the boats one by one in the water and then dropping in pennies slowly, one by one, until the boat sinks. After the boat does sink, you will write down the number of pennies on your chart and also tell how the boat sank.

Student Activity Floating Boats and Recording Results

Be careful to not rock the boats as the pennies are dropped in. Drop the pennies in the same way on each boat. Notice how the boat sinks. Does it go down slowly? Does it tilt to one side before sinking? Does the foil bend and sink all at once? Make notes in your log about what happens to each boat.

Students Make a Scientific Log

Use a notebook for students to make their chart. Depending on the age of the student and their writing skills, they can make this chart and fill it out, or the parent can help. For kindergarteners, or when working with a class, I will often do the writing and let the students dictate what I should do. At the top of the chart put:

  • Boat names.
  • Guess of how many pennies it will hold until it sinks.
  • How many pennies it did hold?
  • How it sank.

Teaching How to Record Results

Instructions from teacher or parent: After they do an experiment, scientists look at the results and see whether they were right. They also try to figure out what they have learned. If they can, they try to guess what happened. You will do that too. Go through the following questions with the students. If they can write the answers, then let them write it in their logs. Younger children will probably do better just talking about it and then dictate their answers to be written down in the log.

Students Write Science Experiment Conclusions

Writing Your Conclusions: Were your guesses right? Did the boat you thought would hold the most really do that? Did the boats sink the way you thought they would? Line your boats up in the order of how many pennies they really did hold before sinking. Do you notice anything the same about the boats that held the most pennies? Do you notice anything the same about the ones that held the least pennies? If you were to try to make another boat that held more pennies, how would you make the shape?

Science Behind Experiment: Water and Surface Tension

What is the scientific principle behind this experiment? The qualities of water molecules and how they hold together to create a surface tension that holds up things that float. The more surface a boat has, the more the surface tension of the water molecules push against it. That is why in most cases the boat with the largest amount of flat surface on the bottom holds the most pennies.

This simple experiment is a vivid demonstration that allows students to see that concept for themselves. Careful questioning by the parent or teacher can help them grasp the concept more clearly. After they have understood the concept on their own, they might enjoy watching the videos to learn more about surface tension.

Another Kindergarten Science Fair Project Idea

Try this extension or alternative project: What Happens with Waves?  Do my Boats Still Float?

Try this extension or alternative project: What Happens with Waves? Do my Boats Still Float?

Another Easy Kindergarten Science Experiment

Which Boat Can Float in Waves? As an additional experiment, I sometimes have children take their boats and do something different. I have one child use a ruler to make gentle waves in the tub of water. Then another student puts the boats in and adds pennies again. This lets the children see the difference in the experiment if the water is not still.

In this version of the experiment, usually, a different group of boats (ones with higher sides) wins over the boats which held the most in still water. I use this additional experiment to show that boat builders often have to take more than one thing into consideration when designing a boat. Scientists often work together like this too. One scientist tests one variable and then another scientist builds on that work to try a new experiment with a different variable. That is how science works to build up knowledge.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Virginia Kearney


Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on September 13, 2018:

Hi Ivana--so glad this is working for your class. I have a lot of other science experiments. You can Google "science experiments VirginiaLynne" to find them. I also have a lot of them linked in this article:

ivana mielniczuk on September 12, 2018:

Hi Virginia,

I ve just used your idea for a course I am doing on science for kindergardeners in Argentina, it was very useful and unique. Do you have any other ideas on scientific experiments for young kids? I lovedyour idea and I did it with my class and it worked wonderfully!! Thanks a lot for sharing!

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 05, 2012:

Thanks so much MsDora--always helps to know someone thought the instructions were clear! Sometimes you never quite know if what you wanted to communicate came across. Almost all teachers I know really want to teach well but it is such a challenging job. It takes a long time and experience to figure out how to teach things and work through the steps. That's why I wanted to put my lessons online. Hopefully, it makes a teacher's job easier!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 05, 2012:

Virginia, sorry I will not have any comment on working the experiment, but I read through the hub. Your instructions are very clear and I can visualize the children having fun. I wonder how different my life might have been if I had a teacher like you. I admire you!