If I Had a Boat (Sailing Curriculum Unit)

In my middle school/junior high class, we’ve been exploring the relationship between sails, force, momentum, foam boats and area.  I’ve used the unit to assess the graphing labs we conducted last quarter and introduce non-linear graphs.

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I began the unit by asking students to research old sailing boats and draw conclusions from the material they gathered.  The students completed a K-W-L chart.  I then introduced the question: what is the most efficient sail?

After some fits and starts (we have been doing some standardized testing practice to get ready for this week’s Stanford tests) we realized we needed to ask two questions:  What is the best SIZE and what is the best SHAPE?

I split the room into teams of two and had each team pick a different shape.  Most chose some sort of triangle, but some had rectangular sails (from the team fixated on pirates) and trapezoids.  We used this lab to develop a way to create different SIZED sails with similar SHAPEs.

Then, in a class discussion, the students designed the boat hull, which you can see in the slideshow.  The hull allows for some cross-experimenting when it comes time to determine the best shape.

We used this experiment lab to record our results and blogged our conclusions.

Next week, I’ll have the group learn about momentum, re-create a force chart for the experiment and maybe calculate the actual force exerted by the wind on our boats.