Ships & Wrecks

Boat Building and Boat Propulsion Development

Sinking and floating activity.

Testing materials that float and sink.


A variety of materials including malleable ones e.g. plasticine or clay.


The next stage of boat development.

How would these boats have been powered?

Boat making


How would boats have developed on from log boats?

Remember that the materials used would have depended on the resources available to people in any particular area.

Reed Boats and Coracles



Reeds/long straw or ‘Art straws’ and string.



Flexible willow, withy sticks, binding materials, plastic sheeting or oil cloth and waterproof glue.

Further Question

Rowing a boat is hard work.

Sail Making.


To design and make effective sails that will best harness the power of the wind.


Discuss how, boats travel through water and what makes them travel through water. Emphasise how rowing needs to use the energy provided by the rower and gather suggestions as to how we can use natural energy resources to assist the ‘sailor’.


Once the idea of wind power has been introduced, tell children that they will be designing and making sails and test their efficiency.

Explain that children will need to think about size and shape of their sails.

Think about:


Is it possible to improve on sail design by changing size and/or shape?




Does the position of the mast affect the boat’s efficiency?

Will additional sails change the way the boat behaves?

(Possibly test boat efficiency by timing their progress over a given distance.)


Parachute, boat models with masts, paper or fabric, pool, wind machine (flap a large piece of hardboard/thin MDF) and a stop watch.


Energy Force Propulsion Wind Efficient Efficiency Sail Mast.

Activity- Wind up Boats and Paddle Boats

Using elastic bands to store energy and propel a model boat.

Show elastic band aeroplane model.


How can we adapt this to a model boat?

To Make A Model Paddle Boat You Will Need…

Balsa wood.
Approximately 30cm x 45cm
Balsa wood
Small hack saw
Elastic band

Strong elastic band

Diagram showing shapes required

Activity – Motor Boats

Use motors to drive a propeller

Construct boat hulls from Lego, for example, and fix on a motor.


Construction kits, Lego, motors, propellers

Activity – Jet propulsion

Look at balloons when released and question how this may be adapted to a boat.

Use bent straws to redirect the released air from the well of a model boat to the water.


Toy boats, balloons, plastic straws