Woods and Wetlands 2018

Slush and Engineering

On this mid-winter melt day I had just two Woods and Wetlands explorers, but nevertheless, we had a blast!  The melting snow that was flooding the playground was slowly draining downhill toward the woods and swamp.  The boys first noticed tiny waterfalls trickling across the path we intended to take to Grandfather Oak.  We were quickly derailed by this fascinating new development and set about following the path of the moving water uphill until we located its source.
D. and J. noticed that there were two tubes coming out of the ground from the playground but only one had water trickling out.  The other seemed blocked and D. began finding ways to clear it.
Getting soaking wet was totally worthwhile as J. and I worked to remove some rocks from the tiny drainage stream, later making the effort to haul them down the hill to create a dam in the woods.
D. and I talked about and observed what kinds of things stopped water from flowing.  Discussion followed with both boys about gravity, the power of moving water, and how engineers study these factors in order to build things.
D. looks closely to find out where he could clear out more leaves and slush.
J. experimented with a plastic lid we found to see how far it would float on the moving water before getting stuck.
We would have loved to have a few, small, foldable shovels to clear the slush, but using our feet and sticks worked too.
J. worked in almost complete contented silence to build his dam.
J. checked frequently to see if the water was getting deeper and also looked for places where the water might escape.
D. really enjoyed building a dam and, like most kids, he loved talking about it.  The one context in which kids are allowed to say, “dam!”
We used packed snow and some sticks to build D’s dam.
He decided to build two separate dams to capture two tributaries.
Together we worked the entire time to clear slush, sticks, and leaves which created tiny rivers that curved and turned.  This turned into a major cause and effect lesson for all of us.
I asked D. where he thinks all the water will eventually go.  He thought hard and looked around before concluding, “Probably the swamp.”  Yup!  
We stayed warm and mostly dry despite our outer layers being soaked.  D. and I changed mittens once when our hands got wet and cold.  Luckily, I keep extras with me at all times!