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Using popsicle sticks, rocks, and plastic trees, 5th graders at Wasatch Elementary are taking a hands-on approach to science as they learn about erosion prevention.

For this activity, the class was spilt up into groups and each given one of three terrains: desert, mountain and beach. The students were given white tubs that contained models of the specified terrain with miniature houses placed in it and their goal was to help prevent erosion to keep the houses standing. To do this, they were given a bag of about 20 popsicle sticks, 20 rocks and 5-6 plastic trees. They were not allowed to move the houses and their designs had to be aesthetically pleasing (to maintain property value).

After Mrs. Routsong explained the assignment, the class started on the planning stage. They had to plan their designs before they could be tested to demonstrate the importance of planning in science. While the class built their designs, their teacher would walk around and add different weather elements to their little town. For example, the beach terrain would get water and the mountain town would get snow (cup of ice). After they were completed, each biome was given a final test. 

The class gathered around each project and each group described their strategy. Mrs. Routson then simulated erosion. If it was the beach terrain, she bobbed an empty water bottle up and down in the water to simulate waves. For the mountain terrain, she poured a cup of water over the ice to simulate snow melt. Finally, for the desert terrain, she took a straw and blew on the landscape to simulate wind. Every design managed to withstand some of the erosion, but none of them were able to save all the houses and that was the point. It is impossible to create something that can withstand erosion for more than a short period of time.

This activity, which was part of a week-long STEM series, was planned by another teacher who enlisted the help of about 6 teachers to help prepare the activity so that all of the 5th graders would have the opportunity to participate. The activity was fun, as confirmed by the students, and gave the students a hands-on application, rather than simply reading about erosion in a science book. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Routsong executed a great activity will help students develop the skills needed to better understand and apply these science concepts.

Shauna Sprunger
  • Coordinator of Communications
  • Shauna Sprunger