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Buoyancy: How a Boat Floats

Target Grade or Age

Grade Level: 5th - 8th

Our talented team of Museum educators are committed to providing an engaging experience that brings SOL-related content to life for your students. We bring passion and energy to each program to ensure the highest level of impact and retention. To learn more about this program, click on one of the format options listed below.

Choose your experience:

Duration:  60 – 75 minutes

How and why do massive ships, tugboats, and sailboats float? What phenomena keeps a container ship from sinking to the bottom of the ocean, even when it is full of cargo? In this program, students will answer these questions and others through sinking and floating demonstrations and experiments. They will explore the principles of buoyancy, such as object density and mass, water density, and surface area. At the end of the program, students will put these principles to the test as they work collaboratively to design and build a boat sail and race against the clock.

Learning Objectives

Students will: 

  • Practice critical thinking related to object buoyancy,
  • Discover how different factors, such as surface area and mass, influence buoyancy, and 
  • Learn different hull designs and which ones are the most stable.

Science (VDOE 2018): 

  • Elementary: 5.1; 5.2a; 5.3b; 5.7; 
  • Middle: 6.1; 6.5c, d, e, f, g; 6.6a, b; 

Mathematics: (VDOE 2016): 

  • Elementary: 5.1; 5.2a; 5.8b
  • Middle: 6.2; 6.3a, b; 7.4a; 8.6b

Next Generation Science Standards:

  • Elementary: 3-5-ETS1-1, 2, 3; 5-PS1-1, 2, 3; 5-PS2-1
  • Middle: MS-PS1-1, MS-PS2-2, MS-ETS1-1, 2, 3, 4


Payment can be made before the program, or we can invoice following your program.

  • Programs at the Museum are $4.50 per student.
    All adults accompanying a field trip are free.
  • Programs at your location are $4.50 per student.
  • Virtual education programs are $125 per program.

Reservations are required for all programs and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill quickly in the fall and spring, so make your reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance.

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