Building a Dam- Unschool Physics and Geometry

A few days ago the kids were helping Dad was a friends truck. While dad was doing the final details and rinsing the kids were having a blast playing in the water run-off.  Ben, our 6 year old engineer, noticed that the water flow patterns changed when they were standing in the “river”. He decided that a dam was required. First he made one with his feet. Realizing that this meant he had to stand still he began the search for alternate damming methods.

First he tried a small stick. It kept washing away. He thought for a minute then decided that if he put the stick in the crack of the sidewalk to anchor it then it wouldn’t wash away. That worked, but it didn’t really dam very much water. “I need a lake!”

He then began experimenting with other materials.

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First he tried using the lid to a treasure chest. It was curved, the sidewalk was not. The water went right under, and that idea was quickly discarded. He discovered that fatter sticks held back more water, but then the water quickly built up and went around. After trying a few different sticks that were not flat he finally hit on the perfect solution. He lined up several fat sticks to make a nice long dam that held plenty of water.

This was a great opportunity for an unschool physics lesson. We were able to talk about why the water flowed the direction it did, why the force of the water moved the little stick, and even a little bit about how real dams provide us with energy. We also mixed in a little geometry talking about curved vs. flat shapes, size comparisons, as well as explaining that a stick was a cylinder.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn all around you. You just have to look for them!

What opportunities did you take to teach your kids something new today?