How Kids & Water Shaped the Land: Teaching Water Flow to Children

What direction does water flow?  Most kids will say “south.”  One explanation for this is that’s because kids’ image of the world is from their early view of wall maps.  South is down, so water must flow down, very obvious.  But let them get their hands in sand on a stream table (with one end elevated) and they will see that water can flow in any direction, but it always flows downhill.

Teaching Water Flow

For the past semester at GSC’s Geography Club at the Union League Boys & Girls Club in Humboldt Park, we have focused on water.  Its properties.  Its behavior.  Its movement.  Its essence as a natural resource.  One of our teaching assistants, Alex Gareis, built a stream table, so kids could experiment with the connections between water and soil.  They shaped the land and channeled water like small squealing gods of creation.  They made a meandering stream, a dammed up river, an oxbow lake, a melting glacier, and a delta.  They witnessed erosion and deposition in real time.  They built a farm with broccoli flowerets and brussel sprouts, then added food coloring “fertilizers” and “pesticides,” and watched the pollutants flow right down the watershed and into the ocean (our bucket at the low end of the table).  It was quite a realization.

Learning Water FlowThe power of play and the love of learning.  Dirt, dirty hands, and water gave them an inkling of how the world works.  It was worth a few loud screams.

Quote from last week’s New York Times Magazine Cover Story on Chicago’s Housing Crisis

“We’re not like Detroit, cordoning off sections of the city,” Benet Haller, Chicago’s principal adviser for planning and design, told me. “But we are like London or Jakarta, with a hyperdense core — a zone of affluence — and something else beyond.” What the housing crisis has revealed, in stark relief, is a Chicago that already looks increasingly like this vision of a ring city, with the moneyed elite residing within the glow of that jewel-like core and the largely ethnic poor and working-class relegated to the peripheries, the banlieues.

…which is an observation that was previously illustrated and elucidated on this blog.

Read the full article on the New York Times website.