The Mary Rose is a wooden Tudor warship that sank off Portsmouth in 1545. While on the sea bed, most of her hull became covered in silt, which effectively sealed it and the artefacts it contained in anaerobic (air-free) conditions and preserved them from decay.

If you teach primary science, see the headings below to find out how to use this resource:

Skill development

Children will develop their working scientifically skills by:

  • Using different types of scientific enquiry to gather and record data to answer questions, including:
    • Carrying out comparative and fair tests.
  • Drawing conclusions and raising further questions that could be investigated, based on their data and observations.
  • Recording data and results using scientific diagrams and labels and tables.

Learning outcomes

Children will:

  • Compare and group everyday materials on the basis of their properties.
  • Identify and name a variety of everyday properties.
  • Identify and compare the suitability of different materials for specific roles.

Concepts supported

Children will learn:

  • That whether an object floats or sinks is not solely determined by the objects mass, shape or size.
    • That not all heavy objects sink.
    • That not all large objects sink.
    • That not all small objects float.
    • That not all light objects float.

Suggested activity use

The first two activities, ‘which materials float and which ones sink’ and ‘what shapes are best for floating’, could be carried out as whole class investigations with children working in small groups. The third activity, ‘why does shape make a difference’, is more suitable as a teacher-led demonstration, due to the use of glass bottles, and can be used to promote discussion and questioning.

Practical considerations

Density may be a difficult concept for children to grasp. These activities will provide experience around the topic of floating and sinking, and help build knowledge that not all heavy, big objects sink. The understanding about why this happens may not need explaining.

However, if not carefully managed, the misconception that size, shape or mass solely determines whether an object floats or sinks may be introduced or reinforced. In fact, it is a combination of the three which determines the density of an object and whether or not it will float.