Sunday, November 27, 2011

Science Experiment ~ Mayflower Freebie!

It's hard to believe it is already time to go back to school.  I've had a wonderful break and wanted to post about an experiment my class did before the break.  Since our school is a K-5 elementary, I was able to get together with one of our 5th grade teachers to plan an activity involving both her 5th grade class and my 1st grade class.  We began by learning a little bit about the Mayflower and toured the ship online, learning about various sections of the ship. 

The experiment we decided to try with our 5th grade buddies is by no means an original idea, but actually came from Deanna Jump and her Simple Science Volume 1 packet.  I purchased this packet and tweaked the activity a little to fit our needs.  This experiment originally was to be used with the book In 1492 by Jean Marzollo, but since we were approaching Thanksgiving we focused on the Mayflower. 

After discussing the huge ship, the passengers, the cargo and everything the large ship held, it made us wonder how does this boat stay afloat?  Students then went back to stations where they were given a ball of clay, a tub of water and a recording sheet.  The first thing students did was drop the ball of clay in the water and record what happened.

Students did predict that the clay would sink and many students had the same conclusion... the ball of clay sank!  Now it was time to think about how they could turn the clay into a sailing ship.  Could they make this ball of clay float?  Students thought of a design and began shaping the clay with the help of their 5th grade buddies.  It took several tries before finally we began to hear shouts of "Our ship is floating!"

Everyone was so excited to look around at their neighbor's ship to see what theirs looked like. 

The 5th graders were just "helpers" in this activity, but they were so encouraging to my first graders and allowed them to think about this experiment.  It was so great to look around and see the level of engagement of all students. 

The experiment had really just begun, because once students got their ship to sail, they must now see how many bear counters it can hold (and record their information).  Let's just say it became a little bit of a competition.

This ship only held about three bears.  But the next ship held much more.

And some learned just how many their ship could hold before it started to sink.

Once students had recorded all their information, they cleaned up their area and then went to buddy read around the room until all students were finished.  I think they enjoyed this as much as the experiment!

Once everything was cleaned up and put away, we came together again and each partner was able to share with our group just how many bears their ship held.  We had punched out some bear dicuts that we wrote the number of bears on for each partner and placed on a large bar graph based on the amount of bears.  I was so caught up in the lesson, I forgot to get a picture of this.  I can tell you though, that the largest number of bears a ship could hold was 23!  We were all amazed! 

I made a recording sheet to go with this activity to include more writing space for my first graders.  It is a freebie and click on the image to get your sailing ships experiment recording sheet.

Overall this was an excellent experience for all involved and we have decided to try and get our 5th grade buddies to visit again for another activity soon.  We hope to get together again before Christmas.  Do any of you have upper grade level "buddies"?  How often do you get together and what type of activities do you do?  Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I guess Christmas is just around the corner. (I'm not sure I'm ready!)  Have a great evening!


  1. I'm a new follower - can't wait to take a look around! :)

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

  2. what a great idea! thanks! And I love it when other teachers recommend TpT units to get :)

    The Teachers’ Cauldron

  3. usually do have 5th grade buddies, but since I'm going to be gone on maternity leave this year, we decided not to do it...

  4. I am awarding you the sunshine award. Hop on over to my blogg to check it out! :)

  5. I just found this post on Pinterest. What a fun idea! I would love to try it, but our third graders are busy (oldest in the school) with everything else this time of year. (Ohio's 3rd grade guarantee causes a lot of stress). My kindergartners are mostly higher-level thinkers and a lot of chiefs. I think they could do this, but I would need to set some ground rules.


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