Museum Classroom – Build-a-Boat

Lesson: Build-a-Boat
Topic: The Welland Canals
Sub-Topic: Transportation
Grades: 1-3

Activity: Build-a- Boat

Materials Required:

Paper Boat

– Scissors
– Glue Stick
– Paper Boat Template (below)



Kitchen Supply Boat

– Scissors
– Popsicle Sticks
– Paper Boat Template (below)
– Sponges
– Aluminum Foil

Boat Floating Activity

– Basin, kitchen sink, or bathtub of water
– Cargo (small stones, LEGO pieces, anything small and plentiful etc.)

Pre-Lesson Activity:

Do a bit of research and jot down on a piece of paper the different parts that make up a cargo ship. Consider how a ship floats in water and where a ship might store its cargo.

Now, consider the different types of ships that you’ve seen transiting on the Welland Canal. Now consider the different types of cargo that these ships carry. Different ships carry different types of cargo.


Follow along with Sara and Adrian in the videos below and build-your-own boat using the different materials required. In the end, you’ll have three boats, one made of LEGO, one of kitchen materials, and one of paper. Get creative and be sure to include the different parts of a cargo-ship.

Now, it’s time to test your engineering skills and float your boat! Test and compare the floating and cargo-carrying capabilities of each boat. How much cargo can each ship carry before it begins to sink?

Which boat do you think would fare best on the Welland Canal?

Wrap-up: Discussion

Consider the different materials used to build your three boats. What materials worked better than others? Why?

Consider the different shapes you used to build your three boats? What shapes were better for holding cargo than others? Why?

Extension Activity:

Now that you’ve tested different boat-building materials and boat designs, go for round two! Can you use what you’ve learned to build a bigger, stronger boat that can hold more cargo?

Share your Build-a-Boat creations with us! Tag us on Twitter and Instagram at @stcmuseum or tag us on Facebook by searching for the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre. We’d love to see your boats!


The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, located next to Lock 3 of the historic Welland Canal, is a leading local history museum and community gathering place, engaging visitors and building relationships with partners, while demonstrating curatorial leadership and innovative programming and exhibits. The St. Catharines Museum is dedicated to engaging visitors in the celebration of our local stories and the cultural identity and history of the City. We are a community resource that interprets, exhibits, researches, acquires, and preserves material culture and stories of St. Catharines.

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