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# Physical Science Learning Center Activities (page 2)

By Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Nov 18, 2010

### Float and Sink

Floating and sinking combines the study of liquids with the study of solids. One of the “big ideas” for floating and sinking is that solids have properties. One of these is whether they sink or float in water. The teacher might introduce activities, or challenges, during group time or she might draw or write challenges on task cards for children to follow. These can be explored over a period of days or even weeks. Some activities for exploring this concept of sinking or floating include the following challenges:

• Divide the objects into those that will float and those that will sink. (Provide a variety of items, including items that are similar but different weights such as a ping-pong ball and a golf ball. Also, provide laminated sheets with pictures and words for sink and float that the children can use for their predictions.)
• Put the objects in the water to see if the predictions were correct.
• What are the similarities in the objects that sink? What are the similarities in the objects that float?
• Will a plastic film canister float? Does it float if you fill it with water? Does it float if you fill it with clay?
• Make a boat out of clay that will float. How many pennies can the boat hold?
• Make a boat out of tinfoil the same size as the clay boat. How many pennies can the boat hold?
• Redesign the boats so that they can hold more pennies.
• Can you make a straw sink?
• Predict which baby food lid will sink first (provide baby food lids with different sizes and patterns of holes).
• Design an object that will float for one minute and then sink.

Some common misconceptions that children have in regard to buoyancy is that objects float because they are lighter than water, they sink because they are heavier than water, wood floats and metal sinks, and all objects containing air float (Operation Physics, 1998). Buoyancy is determined by density, which is the mass divided by volume. If the item weighs more than the water it displaces, it will sink. As teachers, it is important that we understand these misconceptions, so that we can avoid reinforcing them when we work with children. We need to assess children’s understanding and scaffold their learning as needed. For example, we might want to include materials that help children to see that their misconceptions are not accurate (for example, a metal boat).

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