Students build dams to simulate the creation of ecosystems

Students build dams to simulate the creation of ecosystems
Posted on 04/29/2024
Students test damStudents in Ms. Griffith’s science class at Washington Middle School have been learning about ecosystems. One of the focuses was how dams, whether beaver- or man-made, can lead to the creation of a new ecosystem.

Ms. Griffith’s students were tasked with developing their own dams. They were able to choose from materials that would imitate a dam created by beavers (sticks and twigs) or by humans (aluminum foil and clay).

Students constructing dam
Image: Students work together to construct a dam.

“First, we put down mud, but we thought it would leak because we didn’t have clay covering all of the cracks,” said Parker, a sixth-grade student. “We decided that instead of popsicle sticks, we were going to put aluminum foil over it to stop the water.”

After their dam was complete, student groups visited Ms. Griffith, who poured water on one side of the dam. Students observed the water’s impact on their dam.

“I encouraged them to look and see where the leaks were coming from and try to come up with creative ways to fix their dam so that it would be more successful the next time,” said Griffith.

Students observe dam
Image: Students eagerly watch as Ms. Griffith tests the dam they constructed.

Groups then made adjustments to their designs and tested a second time. Students learned that even the smallest change could have a big impact.
“Ecosystems can change a lot because of one spot,” said Timothy, a sixth-grade student. “If a dam isn’t built correctly, it can change the whole ecosystem.”

In addition to the science curriculum, students learned hands-on problem solving skills through observation of their first attempt, the diagnosis of the issue and collaborating with their group to develop a solution. Students gained engineering knowledge through the design and construction of their dams.

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