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Can You Make a Penny Float?

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Students will explore the concept of density by trying to make a penny and other materials float.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent

Coin Program(s)

  • Generic


  • Students will explore the concept of density.
  • Students will use available materials to solve a problem.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Science


  • Third grade
  • Fourth grade
  • Fifth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 45 minutes
Total Length: 0-45 minutes


  • Whole group

Terms and Concepts

  • Density
  • Float
  • Sink


  • Bowl or small pail
  • Water
  • Circulating U.S. cent
  • Ball of clay
  • Other objects that will sink or float, such as a paper clip, cork, ping-pong ball, or button
  • Paper towels
  • Science lab notebook
  1. Introduce this activity by holding a discussion about sinking and floating. As a class, develop a definition for sinking and floating.
  2. Hold up all of the objects and ask the students to predict whether they think the objects would sink or float.
  3. Divide the students into groups of 3 or 4. 
  4. Distribute materials to each group. Have each group conduct experiments to see whether the different objects sink or float. Have each student record the results in his or her science lab notebook. Have them also write the qualities of objects that sink and qualities of objects that float.
  5. Challenge the students to see whether they can make the penny float. They can use the objects they have, but nothing else. (They need to flatten the clay ball into a boat, and then put the penny into the boat.)

There are no modification options for this lesson plan.

Evaluate students lab notebooks to see whether they successfully differentiated between the objects that sink and those that float.

There are no related resources for this lesson plan.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Physical Science
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Properties and changes of properties in matter
  • Motions and forces
  • Transfer of energy