Construct Your Boat

Scripture: Matthew 14:23-27, Mark 6:47-50, John 6:17-21

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will review the story of Jesus walking on water and the significance of his miracles.
  • Students will use examples of different types of boats to use as inspiration for constructing their own boat out of aluminum foil. Their goal is to create a boat to hold the most number of ping pong balls without sinking.

Guiding Questions:

  • How does the shape and construction of a boat effect its ability to hold weight while still floating on water?
  • Considering what we know about science, how was Jesus walking on water a miracle?

Materials: aluminum foil (1 foot per team), about 35 ping pong balls, bucket or small tub of water.

Procedure: Review the story of Jesus walking on water. Focus especially on the fact that this was a miracle because it is impossible for humans to do such a thing scientifically without God’s power. Divide students into groups of 2-4. If possible, you will want at least 3 groups so that students can compare and contrast each other’s’ experiments. Discuss the concept of sinking and floating. Ask what things sink and what things float. If students suggest that lighter objects float, challenge their thinking by reminding them that boats carrying heavy cargo can float. Show students pictures of different types of boats: barge, sail boat, canoe, ship, etc. Then give students this challenge: Construct a boat using only one foot of aluminum foil. Your mission is for the boat to hold as many ping pong balls as possible without sinking.
Give each team 5 minutes of planning time before giving the materials. Then, once they have a plan, give them the materials. After all the teams have completed their boats, test them out. Allow students to discuss the results.
Show students the pictures again. Discuss how the boats’ shapes are fitted for their different uses. For example, students may notice that the boats that floated the best were shaped like a barge. However, this might not have been the fastest boat. Lighter boats with points at the front might not hold as much but could transport a single person quickly. Revisit this concept of Jesus walking on water after conducting the experiment.

Additional Questions:

  • What shapes held the most weight? Why?
  • How does where the balls are place effect the boats’ ability to hold them without sinking? (Spreading out the balls works better because it balances the weight.)
  • Why can people not walk on water? How does this make Jesus’ miracle more amazing?
  • What effected Jesus’ and Peter’s ability to walk on water?

Supplemental Activity: Let students repeat the experiment by coming up with a new plan based on what they learned from the first trial. Encourage them to set a new goal for the number of balls they want their boat to hold. Discuss the new results.