Special Offer

Click to subscribe


Special offers for:
ASE Members
Small Schools
Groups of schools
Teacher delegates at conferences and Primary Upd8 courses


The Centre for Science Education
The Association for Science Education
Part of ASE
Floating Ducks

Topic: Material properties

Thousands of rubber ducks are due to land on beaches in South-West England after a 15 year journey. 29,000 plastic yellow ducks, blue turtles and green frogs broke free from a cargo ship 15 years ago and have floated halfway around the world. Since then they have travelled 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank, landing in Hawaii and even spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack.
Children will imagine finding some of these plastic toys washed up on the beach. They will discuss other objects that might have fallen off a ship and ended up on the beach. Children will build up collections of objects made of different materials and describe the objects.

Large activity image
Try the Activity Learning Objective

Click to Download Floating Ducks teacher notes
Floating Ducks teacher notes

Click to Download Floating Ducks activity
Floating Ducks activity


You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

You will also need the latest version of the flash player to be able to play swf files.

· that objects can be made of different materials

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.
· to sort materials into groups and describe the basis for their groupings in everyday terms eg. shininess, hardness, smoothness.

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 4 successfully.

· to describe simple features of objects and communicate their findings by talking about their work and through drawings

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 4 successfully.

Curriculum Link


QCA Unit 1C: Sorting and using materials

· that every material has many properties which can be recognised using our senses and described using appropriate vocabulary
· to record observations of materials
· that there are many materials and these can be named and described

Scientific enquiry

· making observations and comparisons

Year 1 - Group discussion and interaction
· Take turns to speak, listen to each other's suggestions and talk about what they are going to do
· Ask and answer questions, make relevant contributions, offer suggestions and take turns
· Explain their views to others in a small group, decide how to report the group's views to the class
Year 1 - Creating and shaping texts
· Convey information and ideas in simple non-narrative forms
· Find and use new and interesting words and phrases
· Create short simple texts on paper and screen that combine words with images

Year 1 - Handling data
· Use diagrams to sort objects into groups according to a given criterion; suggest a different criterion for grouping the same objects

Running the Activity

Introducing the activity

Whole Class

· Display Page 1 through data projector or on an OHT. Teacher describes the journey the plastic toys have taken from falling off the ship in China through warm and then freezing waters on their way to Great Britain.
Discussion questions
- Who has been to the seaside?
- Did you find anything when you walked on the beach?
- Can you describe it? How did it feel, smell (seaweed, shells and man made materials)

Leading the main activity

Whole Class

· Display Page 2 through a data projector or on an OHT. Look at the picture of the plastic toys washed up on the beach.
Questions/discussion starters:
- What other things can the children spot? Look really carefully some things may be hiding.
- What words can children use to describe objects.

Whole Class
· Display Page 3 through a data projector or on an OHT. Different objects are grouped on the basis of the material they are made out of.
- Teacher elicits descriptive words for each group from children which he/she writes onto the screen.
- Children could come to front of the class and choose an object each from selection teacher has provided and identify which group it corresponds with on page 3.
- With help from the rest of the class children who have come to front could get themselves into appropriate groups depending on the properties of their object.

· Display Page 4 through a data projector or on an OHT. Print off copies for the children. Pictures of groups of objects can be categorised by materials with key descriptive words next to them. Children can be given a copy of this page and can select from real objects in their group work. They can then place the object next to the correct group in the picture and draw it.

Web Links

Daily Mail
Original story about the toys and their trip round the world

BBC Dynamo
A practical worksheet that allows children to think about what objects are made of.

BBC Schools
A colourful game in which children have to test their knowledge of what will and won't float in order to win the game. Great for children.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?