The Better Boat Challengeby: Aaron Schomburg

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“On your mark, get set, go!” Elementary students love to hear these words as they participate in the annual Third Grade Better Boat Challenge. This highly motivational project started a few years ago as the author was developing the third-grade science curriculum to include a study that revolved around models, design, and problem solving. It has since developed into an exciting and much-loved unit where third graders build, test, and modify speedboats, and later, sailboats. As students design and modify their craft, they experience design technology and develop their problem-solving skills.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:39 AM

It is never too early to engage students in design projects as well as to enable them to build models and test them in order to alter their designs and their understanding of how and why things float or sink. This activity is well thought out and offers the educator an opportunity to follow the strategies presented or to use them as tangential ideas to craft a lesson that reflects the science content understanding of the students as well as the materials available within the classroom. It is neat that this activity requires easily available materials and suits the learning modes of all students. It suggests best practice within the classroom and may be used as an example of the newer engineering NGSS standards. The activity may also be integrated into writing exercises as well as presentation skills if the students are encouraged to keep journals and make posters to explain their understanding as part of a final assessment.

Patricia  (Arlington, VA)
Patricia (Arlington, VA)

  • on Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:46 AM

This article describes all aspects of a boat challenge in which students in third grade design and test a boat of their design. This problem solving event culminates in a race. All aspects of the project are included in the article including student challenge, documentation of progress, testing and redesigning of the boat to the actual race itself. This project would make a great STEM activity since it includes the design process of engineering as well as math, science and some aspects of technology.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:14 PM

This is a great, totally doable activity that engages every child, provides a home school connection, is 5E based inquiry and is just plain fun! It is a clever twist on the typical floating boat race to use a pully to drag the boats through the water and it provides for a much more complex level of discussion and communication by the students through their words, actions and writing.

Caryn Meirs  (Smithtown, NY)
Caryn Meirs (Smithtown, NY)

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