View all activities

Streamlined Sharks

This activity is a fun way of learning about how shape affects the speed at which an object travels through water.

Ages 7+

15 minutes

Streamlined sharks asks students to investigate the relationship between shape and water resistance, answering the question ‘What is the best shape for a shark?’. Sharks haven’t evolved much for the past 100 million years. Is there a reason for this? This investigation will be followed by a discussion of what would make the ultimate coral animal with students tasked to ‘design’ their own. During this activity you will test out different shapes to see if you can find a more streamlined shape than a shark and consider why the shark hasn’t changed for 100 million years.

Activity steps

  1. You are going to investigate the relationship between shape and speed. Fill your large plastic container with water and ensure it is in a safe, stable position.
  2. Take two equally sized lumps of modelling clay. Mold the first lump into a shape that you think will move slowly through the water. Mold the second lump into a shape that you think will move quickly through the water.
  3. Make a prediction as to how long you think it will take for each model to sink to the bottom.
  4. Hold the first shape at the water’s surface.
  5. Ask a partner to use a stopwatch or timer to time how long it takes for each shape to fall to the bottom of the plastic container.
  6. Drop your model and record the time it takes to reach the bottom of the container.
  7. Repeat with your second shape.
  8. Now take a piece of modelling clay and mold into the shape of a shark.
  9. Make a prediction as to how long you think it will take for the shark model to sink to the bottom.
  10. Drop your shark model and record the time it takes to reach the bottom of the container.

Review

  • How did what you observed compare with what your predicted?
  • Why do you think some shapes move more quickly through the water than others?
  • How have sharks adapted to move quickly through the water, and why?

More ideas

There are over 400 different species of sharks, why not try making models shaped like Hammerhead shark or the Basking shark and see how their shape affects their speed through water.

Safety guidance

Caution should be taken to ensure containers are not too full. To avoid spills, keep containers in the middle of the table and clean up spills straightaway to avoid slips.

Brought to you by

activity age bookmark-fill icon bookmark boy-girl calendar chevron-down icon close icon compass cross icon download encounter-live facebook gallery icon instagram icon Instagram icon linkedin links icon location mail icon map next play previous professional-development right-arrow icon search share single image social-media speaker spinner icon students subject-update teacher-resources tick icon time twitter user video-lesson video youtube