Capacity Capers: Water Relay! Measuring Capacity Lesson Plan for Grade 3/4


Summary of lesson plan:

A fun and engaging capacity based lesson plan/activity requiring students to measure, compare and order liquids. In relay teams, the students will work together using a sponge to move 1000ml of water from one container to the other.  The aim of the activity is to be as accurate as possible and conserve the largest amount of water.  This in not a race or timed activity but rather a game of precision and accuracy. After all water has been moved from the original bowl, the teams will measure the water left, calculate the water lost and compare the teams results using scaled measurement tools.

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • Grade 3: Measure, order and compare objects using familiar metric units of length, mass and capacity(ACMMG061)
  • Grade 4: Use scaled instruments to measure and compare lengths, masses, capacities and temperatures(ACMMG084)
  • Grade 5: Choose appropriate units of measurement for length, area, volume, capacity and mass(ACMMG108)

Lesson Plan Sequence:


  1. Have Students seated in a circle. Explain they will be involved in a relay race.
  2. Today we are going to work in teams to move as much water as we can from one bowl to another using  just one sponge per team.
  3. This race will not be timed, it is not about which team completes the activity fastest.  Rather it is a game of accuracy: Which team can move the most water from one bowl to other, wasting the smallest amount of water.
  4. Each team will begin with 1 litre of water. Discuss how many milliletres equals 1 litre.
  5. Divide the students into teams of 4-6 students. Have the teams discuss strategies which may be helpful in moving the water accurately from one bowl to the other. Cradling hands under the sponge, not over saturating the sponge so water can be lost in the transfer.


  1. Teams are to move outside. Each team is given 2 bowls and one sponge. The teams lines up one behind the other with one bowl in front of team member number 1 and the other about 5 metres away.
  2. Each team measures out (with your guidance – as a check) 1 litre or 1000ml and empties it into the starting bowl.
  3. Remind the teams that this is not a timed activity. It is a relay race and they will take it in turns to as much of the water from the start bowl to the other using only a household sponge. The goal of the teams is to transfer the water from one bowl to the other with as little loss as possible, so stress they are not to rush.
  4. Offer one last chance for questions and clarification from the students and then begin the activity. When teams have transferred all of their water they are to sit down and wait for all teams to finish.
  5. When all teams have transferred all their water and have none left in their original bowl, the teams then measure how much water they successfully transferred using measuring cups with scaled metric measurements.
  6. In their teams, students compare the original 1 litre of water with the value they have left, and calculate the amount of water they lost during the activity.
  7. Who was able to transfer  the most water?  How much water was lost by each group? Compare findings and order the teams in places from 1st through to last.
  8. Discuss any strategies which helped in the transfer of water. Would you change how you transferred the water? What helped? What did not.
  9. As a comparison, you can complete another relay following the same directions. Can you transfer more water? (waste less water?) Compare the results.
  10. Children are to record their findings in a table and could go ahead and display their findings in a graph of some kind.


  1. At the end of the session, discuss methods used to calculate how much water was lost through the comparison of the original amount of water and the amount of water left at the end of the activity.
  2. Link this to addition and subtraction being the inverse of each other and model how we can work out the difference using either operation.  Share and highlight strategies used in each teams calculations.


  • Assess and record your observations of the students’ ability to do the following:
  • Could they accurately use the metric measuring cups to measure out 1 litre or 1000ml of water at the beginning of the activity and then the water successfully transferred at the end of the activity?
  • Could they accurately compare and order the teams using the combined reults?
  • Could they accurately calculate the amount of water lost during the transfer process?


  • 2 bowls per team of students
  • 1 sponge per team of students
  • measuring jugs/cups
  • 1 litre of water per team




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