Did you know a boat can be built out of concrete and it will still float? As long as the boat is lighter than the water it displaces, it will stay above water. And what makes a boat move through the water? Throughout history boats have been powered by wind, propellers, oars, motors, paddles, and ocean and river currents. Sailboats, which have been around for 5,000 years, can reach speeds of over 47 knots (about 54 mph) from wind power alone!
BEFORE YOU GO
-Ask your captain to explain how the boat works. What are the characteristics, how is it powered, what is it used for?
-Ask the staff on the boat for a short tour of the vessel. What are the major components of the boat, what are they used for, how many people are necessary to operate it?
-Check if there are hands-on activities students can do to “help” on the boat.
-Listen to the safety precautions necessary for water travel.
WHAT TO WONDER
Ask: How many people can ride on the boat? Why does the boat stay afloat?
Describe the sensation of being on the water. Do you feel the waves or the current?
Observe marine/river life.
Opinion: When you go swimming, do you sink or float? What position do you place your body when you are trying to float? Why does this position make it easier to float?
Compare traveling by water with other means of traveling. What are the benefits and disadvantages?
Challenge students to imagine traveling long distances by boat during different historical eras. Pilgrims, immigrants, and slaves all arrived in America by boat.
Discuss: Where does the term “getting your sea legs” come from and what does it mean?
Research the different types of boats used throughout history: sail, steam, canoe, made of wood, metal, or animal skins. Check the “On the Water” website by the Smithsonian Institute about water travel through history: http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater/
Project: Complete the sink or float experiment and create a model boat that will float and carry weight.
Social Impact: Raise awareness about important water-related issues by completing a service-learning project. Protect the areas where animals, birds, and fish live, stop the pollution of our drinking water, and conserve water resources. Give Water a Hand has downloadable worksheets and projects guidelines (http://www.uwex.edu/erc/gwah/)
Buoyancy Brainteasers and Basics from Nova Online: