I’m not a scientist and have no real expertise in the how of conservation, but what I can teach my sons is the why. Having a global worldview is a passion of mine and was the driving force behind the creation of Multicultural Kid Blogs. What has always fascinated me about conservation is what it teaches us about the interconnectedness of our small planet, so I came up with this simple STEM activity that is perfect for an Earth Day science experiment or for use with a unit on waterways.
I was a child when acid rain became a threat, and I remember clearly the point that the experts kept repeating: The environment knows no national boundaries. The pollution in one country creates the acid rain in a neighboring country. What we do to our environment matters, not just to us but to everyone else on the planet.
I wanted a way to drive this point home to my then preschooler, so I created this simple science experiment using materials we already had around the house. He had a blast and (hopefully) got something of the message behind the activity.
Earth Day Science Experiment: Our Interconnected Waterways
You will need:
Egg carton (cardboard is best)
Flax seed meal or other powdery material
Tray or cookie sheet
Lots of water!
First off, I recommend setting your egg carton on a napkin, laid inside a tray, for reasons that we become clear later. You’ll notice that I did not start this way, but soon learned my lesson!
To start we poured water into the egg carton. We had to fill it enough that the water poured from one cup to another. I talked to my son about how the waterways were all connected to each other – creeks run into rivers, which run into lakes and oceans.
Next we talked about how if we throw trash into a creek, it doesn’t just get that creek dirty. The water carries the trash to other places, like lakes and rivers. To demonstrate this principle, we took the flax seed meal and poured it into one of the egg cups. You actually have to dump quite a bit before you see an effect, but my son didn’t mind helping with this 🙂
Then we added drops of food coloring to another cup and watched as the color slowly spread throughout the egg carton.
And then the experiment jumped out of the neat boundaries I had set up, which, of course, was really the whole point. It turns out that if you let water sit in a cardboard egg carton for a long time, it will leak! And not just water, of course, but the food coloring that was just added to it.
Luckily I was able to roll this potential mishap into our Earth Day science experiment, talking to my son about how even when the connections aren’t obvious, they are still there. Water in a lake doesn’t just stay in the lake, of course, and neither do the chemicals and dyes we dump into it. All that junk seeps into the ground and spreads, just like the dye from our egg carton, which quickly stained the napkin I had hurriedly put under it.
My little mess-maker really enjoyed this Earth Day science experiment, and it was a great visual to talk about how interconnected our environment is. My son’s response? That we need to get a trash boat so we can go clean up all that trash out there! Alright, kid, I’ll put it on my list! Right along with the submarine he wants to get to scout out underwater volcanoes 😉
How do you teach your kids about the environment?