Building Landscapes.

by Deb on August 20, 2010


I used to teach a fun lesson about erosion where we mixed up all sorts of dirt, put it into a gutter, put a hose on it and saw how it got moved by the water.  Then at one school I didn’t have a piece of gutter, so I found a nice pile of dirt and we went out with buckets and played on it.  So building landscapes was born.

First you build a nice hill, using different types of dirt if you have them around.

hill building

Then the angry rain gods come.  If you have older kids they might get the concept of different strengths of rain and sprinkling, but little ones are into floods Noah would be proud of.


They took me very literally when I said pour it onto the top and loved their erosion channel, especially when they managed to create a waterfall.  Again, older kids might manage more nuance and watch the water take different paths down the rough side of the mountain.


While your hill is being eroded away, you are also creating a network of streams and lakes.  Or if the area you are working in is very flat you might have to help it a bit.


And when it dries out, you can check out the erosion patterns.

Erosion patterns

You can see here that different sands have been carried differently by the water, depending on weight and the speed the water was flowing.  The lighter debris has floated the furthest, out to the edge of the lake.

It’s fun being a giant for a while and doing the work of centuries in a few minutes.  Try it! This post is part of the We Play linkup at Childhood 101.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

sally August 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Looks like a lot of fun. Might go and play on the pile of gravel next nice day.


Jenni August 23, 2010 at 3:02 am

Hi, this is great…. I’ve been planning a few activities for my daughter to look at water in nature… i will add this to the plan!!!!

thanks for sharing, Jen x


Annie August 23, 2010 at 6:31 am

At the moment we are having so much rain that we can see this happening in our yard, on the farm, everywhere we go. In fact its been raining so regularly lately that the kids are actually getting sick of me pointing out how high the water levels are, how the dirt has been moved etc. I think they are getting the picture…. It will be fun to do it ourselves though when everything has dried out and we can replicate our wet winter.


jenny August 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I love that science is everywhere and that you make is so fun and playful for the kids. Don’t they just love dirt?! Our kids at preschool are spending hours each day digging away in the stuff.
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amandab August 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

We only have think, chunky clay in our yard, so I have a feeling this wouldn’t work for us 🙁


Marita August 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Another brilliant idea. I’m so going to have to do this with my girls.
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