Sunday, June 24, 2012

Learning About Erosion

As we’ve been spending a decent amount of time on the trails working towards our 100 mile goal (which I owe an update on… it’s coming!), we’ve been talking about taking care of the trails. Like most kids, my boys love to pick up rocks, throw rocks, and do just about anything with rocks. They especially love throwing rocks (or just about anything) into bodies of water – puddles, streams, lakes, you name it! I don’t blame them; it does produce a satisfying splash and enticing ripples.

At the same time, we are working to teach the boys that we need to protect and care for the trails we use. Taking rocks and things off of the trail can contribute to erosion. Of course, the boys wanted to know what exactly erosion was, because they weren’t about to give up one of their favorite past-times for something they didn’t understand. We checked out a few books from the library to begin learning, and then we did an experiment. A quick search for erosion on pinterest led me to an image of a project that we figured we could create. I never found an original source, just an image, so if anyone knows the source for this, let me know. I’d love to give them credit for the idea.

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I explained the idea to my husband who got to work actually making it. He got three aluminum pans from the dollar store. One he filled with just dirt (far right). One he filled with dirt, rocks, and sticks (middle). The last one he filled with a large chunk of grass he cut out of ground behind a shed (far left). We considered growing the grass as an additional step the project, but B was very ready to see the results so we took a shortcut. We cut holes in the pain and stuck in pieces of plastic bottles or toilet paper tubes. Then stacked the pains on some scrap wood to put it on a slant.

Now, to see how the pans held up to the rain (aka the hose).

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B took a turn with the hose, but quickly decided he wanted to be on the side to see what would come out of the tubes.

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We watched as dirt and water flowed out of (and over the top of, oops, a little overzealous with the hose) the first pan that held dirt only.

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Then we saw as some murky water flowed out of the pan filled with rocks, dirt, and sticks. Clearly, those rocks and sticks were helping hold the dirt in.

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Finally, we watched as crystal clear water (and a lot less of it!) flowed out of dirt with grass planted in it.

We learned that grass, rocks, and sticks help keep the soil from washing away when it rains, and now we really understand why we shouldn’t pick all those rocks off the trails!

B loved this, and I had so much fun watching him. When his Mema came home, he immediately wanted to teach her about erosion. He started, “Mema, have you heard of something called erosion?” He continued to very accurately and thoroughly perform the experiment explaining along the way! I love experiential learning!

Next up, I’ll be looking for good kid-friendly resources on Leave No Trace to continue teaching about trail etiquette and ways to enjoy the outdoors that are safe for our natural spaces as well as ourselves.

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