Teachers & Group Leaders


Key Stage 2


This lesson explores how the canals were built, the people who built them and the techniques involved in keeping them watertight.

National Curriculum


  • Sc1 Scientific Enquiry 1b, 2b, 2d, 2e, 2i, 2j; Sc3

Materials And Their Properties

  • Grouping & Classifying Materials 1a & d


  • Victorian Britain 11a

Learning Objectives

  • To understand the principle of a fair scientific test.
  • To understand the meaning of the word 'permeability'.
  • To design a fair test to investigate the water permeability of different materials.
  • To draw conclusions about which materials would have been best for lining the bottom and sides of a canal to make it watertight.


  • All children will learn that some materials are more permeable than others.
  • Most children will learn the principles of a fair test, and which material was most watertight.
  • A few children will learn that the most watertight material was the most suitable for lining canals, and why it was chosen by the navigators for this purpose.

Additional Resources

File Description Download
For historical background on the role of navvies in canal building we also have a Navvies Information Sheet Download infosheet-navvies
Download Lesson Plan