Activity Overview: Humans have used dams since ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations restricted the flow of rivers and the extent of floods with earth and mason structures. Either simple or complex, the purpose of the dam is to control the flow of water. In modern times, dams play an important role in the energy landscape too. Texas has many dams, which create many reservoirs for sources of drinking water and water for irrigation.
In this activity, students work in groups to control the flow of water with man-made constructions. Instead of using large-scale masonry and cement, you can complete this activity with your students using interlocking building blocks, such as LEGO®.
Due to the risk of spills, you may want to considering completing this activity outside.
Time: 30 minutes
Students will use building blocks to create reservoirs, channels, canals, and other structures to control the flow of water. Ideas include building a channel to steer water around a “building” or building a dam with an “irrigation channel” to direct water toward a particular area. Students should build their creations on the base plate. Ask students to visualize how water will flow through their creation.
Once the structures have been completed, incline the base plate to allow the water to flow. You can do this with more blocks built vertically in the tray or with another waterproof material. When the plate is inclined, students can pour water from a cup or bottle over the plate. Does the water behave as they imagined it would? What happens if they increase the flow by pouring more water? Less water?
Ask students to describe what environmental conditions would create conditions similar to those they created by pouring water. Ask students to describe what kind of landscapes they have created? Would they like to live in such a place? Why or why not?
Students should revise their original design for the same purpose. Is it more or less effective for what they are trying to accomplish? Can they create an entire new design for a different purpose based on what they learned during this investigation.