Sail with Shackleton

by Fellowship Agency March 10, 2020

Sail away on a fruity adventure! This What’s in my tray? activity is perfect for illustrating the link between floating and sinking for children in Key Stage One. This activity is linked to the book ‘You wouldn’t want to be on Shackleton’s Polar Expedition’ because the story is about how Shackleton’s crew go through all weathers on their expedition and they are not sure if their ship will carry a lot of weight. Get the children to test how much weight, using one penny coins, their boats could carry.


Please refer to our Fruit Skin Boats activity video for more information:

Learning outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Listen to the story of ‘You wouldn’t want to be on Shackleton’s Polar Expedition’.
  • Design a simple boat.
  • Test how robust the boat is by balancing weights on it.
  • Think of ways in which the design could be improved for next time.

You will need (per class)

  • 6x Translucent F2 Gratnells Trays half-filled with water.
  • Pack of wooden lollipop sticks for flag and sails.
  • A selection of appropriate fruit e.g. melon, watermelon, limes, lemons (take out the flesh beforehand to save on time and use of a knife around small children).
  • Card/paper for flags and decorations
  • Felt tip pens
  • Tape or paperclips to fasten objects with.
  • £3 worth of one penny coins to use as weights.

What to do:

  • Choose the fruit skin that your group would like to use as a base to the boat.
  • Make and decorate a flag/sail using the card materials.
  • Attach the flag/sail to a wooden lollipop stick and attach it to the fruit skin, without piercing it.
  • Bring your boat to the half-filled tray of water.
  • Place the boat on top of it.
  • Make a prediction in your group as to how many one penny coins it may be able to hold.
  • Steadily add one penny at a time to your fruit skin boat, counting how many you can add before it becomes too heavy and sinks. Top Tip: It helps to distribute the pennies evenly across the boat.
  • Discuss whether your prediction was correct or not in your group and share thoughts with the class.

Other things to try…

  • Make a sailor or pirate for your fruit skin boat using the leftover craft materials, try to make him/her as light as possible. Why is the weight of the pirate important?
  • Which fruit makes the best fruit skin boat? Why?
  • Are there any other fruits or vegetables you could try? A cucumber kayak or carrot canoe perhaps? What size and shape of boat makes for the best cargo boat? Please only use leftover fruits or vegetables and do not waste food. If you wash your hands and use clean water, you can cook and eat the vegetable boats after you have tested them.

Health & Safety

As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s in my tray activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations. In particular, be sure to wipe up any drips or spills immediately to reduce the risk of slips.