ACS: Inquiry in Action - Properties of Materials (Lesson 1.4): Using the Properties of Materials to Improve a Model Boat

Students use what they’ve learned about the properties of paper, plastic, and aluminum foil to investigate the question: Which materials are best for making a boat that can hold the most pennies before sinking?


Students will use what they know about the properties of paper, plastic, and aluminum foil to decide how the materials can be used for a specific purpose.

Key Concepts

  • Materials with certain properties are good for specific purposes.
  • Designing and making a product takes testing and making changes and testing again.

NGSS Alignment

  • NGSS 2-PS1-2: Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. (This performance expectation integrates traditional science content with engineering through a practice or disciplinary core idea.)


  • Demonstrate making a paper boat to guide students, who work in pairs, to make their own paper boat.
  • Place the boat in water and demonstrate how many pennies the boat can hold before sinking. Students are then guided to think of ways to improve the boat by covering it with water proof material.
  • Students make the same paper boat and cover it with plastic and aluminum foil.
  • Students test the boat to see if it holds more pennies than the original paper boat.


Download the Student Activity Sheet (PDF) and distribute one per student when specified in the activity. The activity sheet will serve as the Evaluate component of the 5-E lesson plan.


Science Topics
Chemistry, Matter
Engineering Topics
K-6, Educator
2nd Grade
Descriptions of PDFs

Lesson Plan (PDF) | Student Activity Sheet (PDF) | Teacher Background (PDF) | Connections to NGSS (PDF)

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