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Titanic Lessons

A family’s trip to the Science Center sets all sorts of wheels in motion for a young boy eager to learn.

Make Your Own Iceberg

Grade Level: All

Materials needed:

  • disposable plastic cups
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • empty two-liter bottle
  • 1 cup kosher salt (regular salt works, too, but kosher salt dissolves better.)
  • blue food coloring

Try it:

  • First, spray the inside of a plastic cup with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Fill the cup with tap water and a few drops of blue food coloring. Place in freezer. This will be your iceberg. Next, have an adult help you cut the top off a two-liter bottle.
  • After your iceberg is completely frozen,
    fill a two-liter bottle 3/4 full of tap water.
  • Add salt and stir until dissolved. Remove
    the iceberg from the cup and place it into
    your mini ocean.

What do you see above the water's surface?
How about below? Where is the widest part of the iceberg?

It’s not certain exactly how large the Titanic iceberg was, but just like many of the thousands
of icebergs that are produced each year, almost 90% of the Titanic iceberg was below the water's surface.

To download the Titanic activity guide, click here.


Laura Mikula, who homeschools children Mia and Erik, gets great ideas for interactive lessons when visiting Science Center exhibits like Titanic Science. PHOTO: LISA KYLE

On a recent visit to the Titanic Science exhibit at Carnegie Science Center, tour guide Erik Mikula explained the story of the great ship’s ill-fated journey.

“Some of the crew and passengers spotted the iceberg first. The captain tried to steer away from it, but it took too long to steer because it was such a big ship. When the ship hit the iceberg, they lowered the lifeboats and loaded the women and children first.”

Mikula then moved over to a wall of photographs that chronicled the stories and identities of passengers onboard that day. “If a ship like that hit an iceberg today, things would be different,” he explains. “There are laws to make sure that every ship that crosses the ocean has enough lifeboats to carry every passenger. And the two-way radio is always on in case of emergency.”

Erik Mikula’s range of knowledge about the Titanic is impressive. What’s even more impressive is that he’s only six years old—and he learned everything he knows about the Titanic at Carnegie Science Center.

Laura and David Mikula are the parents of Erik and his four-year-old sister Mia. They’ve been members of Carnegie Museums for two years, and because their children are homeschooled, Laura uses the Science Center’s exhibits and classes as valuable resources to enhance her own lesson plans. “The Science Center allows us to explore things in detail,” she says. “It opens up whole new areas of learning and discussion.

“I never would have thought to introduce the Titanic at kindergarten age, but Erik has learned about geography and steel strength; all kinds of themes,” she adds. “There are about 100 families in my homeschool group, and many of us visit the Science Center and meet for discussion on a regular basis. It does my job for me, in a sense. I can bring the kids on a ‘field trip’ and it gives me new ideas and makes my lessons more interactive. I use the teacher’s manual to expand on what I’m teaching.”

Erik has seen the Titanic exhibit five times. His interest in boats of all kinds stems from his family’s own sailboat excursions to Lake Arthur. The sheer size of the Titanic is a real
fascination for Erik, and it’s brought down to scale as a detailed model in the exhibit. Other components show exactly how the ship went down and how it has rusted after decades of resting on the ocean floor.

“The exhibits at the Science Center actually increase our understanding of history and science,” said Laura. “There’s a class on the submarine coming up that Erik is really looking forward to.”

The story of the Titanic could be disturbing for young children, but Laura feels that Erik’s main interest is in the ship itself, and the tragedy of the Titanic hasn’t “sunk in” just yet. Or, maybe it has.

When asked if he’d like to take a cruise on a big ship like the Titanic someday, Erik ponders for a moment, and then says thoughtfully, “Maybe.”

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