• Water tray and water
  • Variety of materials for building boats
  • Scissors
  • Joining materials (Glue, tape, pins etc.)
  • Whiteboards and pens
  • Pictures of a range of different boats and ships


Learning Outcomes:

Science – Working scientifically

  • Ask simple questions and recognise that they can be answered in different ways
  • Observe closely using simple equipment
  • Perform simple tests to ascertain whether materials will sink or float
  • Identify and classify materials as floating or sinking (suitable / not suitable for building a boat)
  • Use their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions
  • Gather and record data to help answer the question

Everyday materials (Year 1)

  • Distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made
  • Identify and name a variety of everyday materials
  • Describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials
  • Compare and group together a variety of everyday materials on the basis of their simple physical properties

Use of everyday materials (Year 2)

  • Identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials for particular uses

Design and technology – Design

  • Design purposeful and functional boats based on design criteria
  • Generate, develop, model and communicate ideas through talking


  • Select from and use a range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks
  • Select from and use a wide range of materials and components, according to their characteristics


  • Evaluate their ideas and products against design criteria

Technical knowledge

  • Build structures (boats) and explore how they can be made stronger and more stable (less likely to sink)

English – Spoken language

  • Listen and respond appropriately to adults and peers
  • Ask relevant questions to extend understanding and knowledge
  • Articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions
  • Give well-structured explanations
  • Maintain attention and participate actively in collaborative conversations
  • Participate in discussion
  • Consider and evaluate different viewpoints, attending to and building on the contributions of others



  1. Share the pictures of the different boats and discuss the materials that they are made from. What is important about the materials and the design processes? How do the boats stay afloat?
  2. Discuss the different materials that the children could use to make their own small boats. What properties will the materials need to have? What other considerations are there to think about?
  3. Explain that the children will work in small groups to test materials and make boats that can float. Encourage them to make notes on materials and design on their whiteboards and to work together to find solutions. While the children are working, discuss their design ideas, the materials they are testing / using, and the ideas they have for joining the different elements together. Encourage the children to test their boats at different production stages.
  4. Bring the groups together at the end of the session. Encourage each group to explain their design / build and to talk about any difficulties they encountered during their build.


Extension Ideas:

  • Include a more formal design and evaluation element to the session. Split the session over two ensuring each element is covered in enough detail
  • Race the boats either in the water tray, or on a local pond. Whose boat wins / stays afloat the longest. Discuss why this is the case.


Top Tips:

  • Remind children to put the materials / boats in the water gentle and not to push them under. Have more than one of each type of material so the children can experiment with placing them flat, folded, and at different angles to see what difference it makes.