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Buoyancy (the force that keeps things afloat) is a concept for curious minds of all ages. From the youngest (Does it float or sink?) to the most sophisticated (Density is calculated by dividing mass by volume), I’ve found something for everyone.
Archimedes of Syracuse: The Father of Buoyancy
“People have been aware of objects floating on water (or sinking) since before recorded history. But it was not until Archimedes of Syracuse came along, that the theory of flotation and the buoyancy principle were defined.” Archimedes was a mathematician born in Syracuse on the island of Sicily in 287 BC. According to this Utah State University site, Archimedes is best remembered for an incident involving the crown of King Hiero II. Learn why Archimedes shouted “Eureka!” and how he proved that the king’s crown maker had defrauded him.
Blues Clues: Sink or Float?
“You’re just in time… we’re experimenting. Can you help Slippery Soap choose the objects that sink or float?” For the Blues Clues crowd (you know who you are), Nickelodeon has created this fun Shockwave activity. Will the hammer float? Will the baby bottle float? Items appear three at time for you to drag-and-drop into the sink. Click Play to get another round of three additional items.
“Dear Tim and Moby, Why do I float?” Watch the Shockwave movie to learn why a boat with an anchor in it floats, but the anchor thrown by itself into the water, sinks. After the movie, try your hand at the Buoyancy Quiz, the Experiment with Bob the ex-lab rat, and the printable Buoyancy Activity Page. Last, but not least, join Gary and Gary for instructions on building a bottle raft.
Momma’s Sink or Float
“Some things float and others sink. Have you ever wondered why? Here is a neat experiment for you to try. When you’re finished, you should be able to find an object that floats and an object that sinks. Maybe you can even explain why an object floats or sinks.” This annotated experiment from the Indiana Purdue University School of Education is written for elementary-age students and their teachers. In addition to the buoyancy experiment, you’ll find pages of supplemental discussion questions and a lesson plan. Be sure to try the Coke can experiment you’ll find by traversing through all the pages until you get to Extend Your Knowledge.
PBS: Buoyancy Basics
“When you place a block of wood in a pail of water, the block displaces some of the water, and the water level goes up. If you could weigh the water that the wood displaces, you would find that its weight equals the weight of the wood.” After you’ve digested the basics of buoyancy, you’ll be ready for the three Buoyancy Brainteasers. This PBS site is my pick of the day because of its clear explanations, simple graphics, and challenging brainteasers!