The story

Unless you have been hiding under an iceberg for the past few weeks, you will have noticed an increase in the amount of media attention on the Titanic. This is because the 100 year anniversary of its sinking takes place on Sunday.

Teaching ideas

A lesson on the sinking of the Titanic would be a great way to test KS3 students’ understanding about forces and give them valuable practice at how to write a good scientific explanation.

Pose the question ‘why did the Titanic sink?’ to your class and you will inevitably get the answer’ because it hit an iceberg’. At this point much posturing on your part as to how hitting an iceberg could sink a ship and how a 50 000 ton ship floats anyway will give them a hint that, as always in a science lesson, there is much more to it than meets the eye.

To help the class explain what happened, you could show them the video which has a reconstruction of the event.

Note the five compartments at the bow that fill with water following the collision with the iceberg. This meant that the ship had no chance – as these filled up with water the weight of the ship no longer balanced that of the upthrust from the water and it was a mathematical certainty she would sink. If only one less had been ruptured she probably would have made it. It seems that bad luck, as well as science, had a part to play that night.

Teaching resource


This resource can be shown to the class to help them to prepare their explanation. It contains the task, keywords and level guidelines based on the APP framework which they can use for self-assessment of the task.



Webpage with a nice scientific explanation as to why the Titanic sank.