Skip to Content

Save Fred Activity for the First Week of School

I tried this Save Fred activity with my chemistry students during the first week of school. I had almost all of these students for Algebra 1, so I needed to find a few new beginning of school activities that they had not seen before.

Save Fred Activity

Each group of students needs a plastic cup, a gummy worm, a gummy life saver, and one paperclip for each person in the group.

Save Fred Activity for First Week of School

I found a story online that I put in my SmartNotebook file to use to introduce the activity to students.

Poor Fred! He was sailing along on a boat (your plastic cup) when a strong wind blew it upside-down. Fred (your candy worm) ended up on top of the upside-down boat. Unfortunately for Fred, his life preserver (your candy life preserver) is still trapped under the boat.

Your job is to place the life preserver firmly around Fred’s body, but you must obey three rules:

1. Fred may not fall into the “sea” (onto the table) more than one time; if he does, Fred “drowns.”

2. You may not injure him in any way.

3. You may use only the four paper clips to move Fred, the boat, and the life preserver. You may not touch anything except the paper clips.

I found a document online that outlines the entire Save Fred activity. The activity is attributed to Stacy Fox from the NSTA ListServ.

I used trays from Dollar Tree to set up each group’s Fred. This let me set things up before class.

Save Fred Activity for First Week of School

Then, I just had to pass out paper clips so that each group got one paperclip per student.

Save Fred Activity for First Week of School

This is a fabulous activity for the beginning of the year because it encourages students to communicate, share ideas, experiment, and ultimately learn better how to work together to achieve a goal. I used this activity with high school chemistry students, but I have seen many elementary teachers using it online as a beginning of year activity.

Save Fred Activity for First Week of School

There was a ton of laughter and discussion as groups worked out how to save Fred without piercing him with a paperclip or letting him “drown.” Once groups come up with a valid plan, the actual saving of Fred doesn’t take all that long.

I used the flowchart assignment assignment in this PDF to give groups a chance to reflect on the experience. They had to write and draw a flowchart describing how they saved Fred. I figured this was a great lead-in to writing descriptions for future lab reports in chemistry.

Overall, it was a great activity! I recommend it if you are looking for a team-building activity for the first week of school.


Sunday 14th of August 2022

Hi Sarah-

I love this Saving Fred activity. Would you mind sharing your smartboard file with me, please?

Warmly, Christine


Friday 12th of August 2022

Hi Sarah!

I just found your Saving Fred activity. Is it possible to email me your Smartboard file? Please.


Thursday 11th of August 2022

If possible can you share your Smartboard file you used for this activity?


Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Hi, I am excited to use this for the first week of school. Would you share your Smartboard file with me too? Thanks.


Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Hello! Would it be possible to get the file as well? I was also wondering how long this activity took.

Thank you!