STEM Junk Boats

Science Technology Engineering and Math {STEM} activities for kids are all the rage right now and STEM junk boats rank at the top of our favorite projects under the sun.

With just a pile of clean recyclables and a kiddy pool, little engineers can design, build and race their own batch of junk boats, too!  For even more STEM fun, check out our amazing Epic STEM Challenge Bundle!

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Building STEM Junk Boats

After reading the book “Toy Boat” – a story about a boy who creates a boat out of a can, a cork, a yellow pencil and a white cloth – the kids were eager to build a boat of their own.


I pulled out our huge collection of clean recyclables, a roll of duct tape and scissors and invited them to get to work. After pairing up into teams of two kids dug through the pile and picked their supplies: empty paper towel rolls, old newspapers, plastic tubs, straws…

After 15 minutes or so, the mini engineers were eager to see if their boats would really float.

We headed outside to a kiddie pool I’d filled with water. I gave each team a straw to make “wind”.

One person blew the boat across the water and then a second teammate blew it back. The first boat to touch the edge of the pool was the winner.

Kid-Friendly Ways to Spark Creativity {Playdough to Plato}

After one round, the kids were hooked!

They took their boats out of the water and, using what they’d learned from watching the other junk boats perform in the water, they made adjustments to their designs to make the STEM boats faster.

Then, they headed over to the pool for round 2.

Junk Boats

More STEM Inspiration

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Hi, I’m Malia.

I LOVE helping Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade teachers save time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger results. I’m so glad you’re here!