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Sailing Away with Sailboats

Ready to sail away? I never could have predicted how much STEM kids love to make boats. Building boats is one of the first projects we tackled a few years ago and they loved it so much.  

But, the boats we built were not sailboats. That didn’t seem to matter to some of the groups, however. They built a mast and sail anyway.   That got me to thinking…. could we try sailboats? What would make them move?

Sailing away with sailboats in the STEM Lab- students experiment and design a sailboat that will travel the fastest!

How are the boats powered?

You cannot sail away without some kind of power! #right I did think about having the kids use straws and blow their boats through the water.  

Then I remembered how icky that is. The straws get full of spit. Because they are kids. But, just imagine how gross that is to see spit spraying from the end of the straw onto the boats or into the water pan. Yuck!  

So, I brought a fan to school and that worked perfectly. We had to learn how to aim it to get the best “wind” and we also learned the highest speed on the fan’s setting made the boats turn over!

This STEM challenge will have your students designing and building a boat using only a few supplies. The real trick is that the boat must sail when wind is added. Finally, the boat will be tested for its ability to hold weight.

Sail Away with First Grade Sailboats

Nothing fancy with the smallest engineers. We used pool noodles because I knew they would float. Kids held the noodles together with toothpicks and tape. The mast is a straw and we used paper sails.   

I meant for them to use the toothpicks to connect the pool noodles. Kids thought the toothpicks made great decorations! We used foam sheets for the sails instead of construction paper. First graders would cheer when their boats sailed away!

STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

Third Grade Sailboats

Third graders also loved the sail away project!

I knew foil was a great material for boats and this is one of the items third graders could choose. They also had pieces of cardboard.   The cardboard was mostly to make a stable base, but the real dilemma was protecting the cardboard from getting wet.

This STEM challenge will have your students designing and building a boat using only a few supplies. The real trick is that the boat must sail when wind is added. Finally, the boat will be tested for its ability to hold weight.
This STEM challenge will have your students designing and building a boat using only a few supplies. The real trick is that the boat must sail when wind is added. Finally, the boat will be tested for its ability to hold weight.

The one on the left above worked great because they made sides on their boat. The tiny plastic cup turned out to be a way to tape the mast in place.  

On the right is another team that relied on the foil for everything! Even the sail is made of foil.

Kids love the real-life STEM Challenge about building boats! Let’s add a sail to the boat and see what they can do! Best of all, add some races to the challenge and your kids will be cheering loudly!
Kids love the real-life STEM Challenge about building boats! Let’s add a sail to the boat and see what they can do! Best of all, add some races to the challenge and your kids will be cheering loudly!

In some of the photos above you can see the water rippling as the boat is sailing. We did have races with these boats! Two teams placed their boat at the end of the water pan and let go, I turned on the fan, and off they went.

Boats that crashed into each other created some groaning and then some cheering as one would break away and take off.   Try some boats soon! Your kids will love them.

This is such a fun building project. There are many problems to solve and kids have to constantly repair the boats. As soon as one takes on water they have to go back and find the leak and fix it. I keep a roll of paper towels beside the water pan and leave real towels on each work table.          

Some TIPS for your sail away event:

  • My water pan is a long under-the-bed storage container.
  • Buy foil sheets at the Dollar Tree. They are pre-cut and it saves lots of time.
  • Have fun-it’s just water!

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Sailing away with sailboats in the STEM Lab- students experiment and design a sailboat that will travel the fastest!