Water Pollution Activities for Kids

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Rainwater travels into lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and the ground, absorbing pollutants from the atmosphere and soil and carrying them into waterways. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, both human and animal activities result in water pollution. Typical examples encompass microbial and lead contamination as well as chemical contamination from fertilizers. Water pollution activities help children to explore sources of pollution and ways to mitigate its damaging effects on waterways.

Build a Watershed

  • Construct a model of a watershed, which is the land that rainwater passes through to reach bodies of water. Show how a watershed functions like a funnel, guiding water downstream. Ball up newspaper and place it on the bottom of a pan. Cover the newspaper with aluminum foil. Shape the foil-covered newspaper so that it forms a valley with two hills on either side. Pinch the outside edges of the foil upward to prevent water from flowing over the watershed. Use a spray bottle to coat the model with water, squirting the water in different directions. Observe water trickling down the hills and into the valley. Dip a paper towel into food coloring. Crumple the towel and put it in the watershed. Simulate water pollution by spraying water on your model, watching for run-off from the food coloring into the valley.

Investigate Your Watershed

  • Advance the first activity of building a watershed by drawing a picture of it. Illustrate the flow of water downstream, starting at high points in geography and trickling down to streams or reservoirs. Research the types of contaminants, such as household detergents and garden fertilizers, mixing with the rainwater in your neighborhood. Draw examples of contaminants in your picture. Identify your real watershed by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website at www.epa.gov/surf2/locate/map2.html. Click on your state, and then click on the place that is nearest the water source for your area. Examine the map of your watershed and locate potential sources of water pollution, such as highways and factories.

Explore Filtration

  • Set aside materials to create a filtration system, which includes 2 cups sand, 2 cups gravel, 1/2 cup activated charcoal, coffee filter, sponge, straw, paper clip, cotton ball, 2-liter soda bottle, rubber band, duct tape, nylon hose, modeling clay, foot-long piece of yarn and scissors. Gather also materials for contaminants, including 6 to 8 drops of food coloring, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup soil, 3 tbsp. baking soda, paper plate torn into pieces and a handful of twigs, leaves and grass. Divide children into small groups. Give each group a water-filled bucket and a bottle that's been cut in half. Have each group invert the top half of the bottle and place it in the bottle's bottom. Ask the group to mix contaminants into their buckets, pouring in food coloring, raisins, soil, baking soda, paper pieces and twigs and grass. Have each group create a filter, using only 8 items from the filtration materials. Give the children 15 minutes to design their filters. Ask them to pour their contaminated water through the filters, directing them to take their experiments outdoors. Declare the team with the cleanest water after filtering as the winner.

Examine Aquifers

  • Gather blue and red food coloring, a 5-quart bucket of vanilla ice cream, a bottle of clear soda pop, straws, clear plastic cups and colored sprinkles. Use chocolate chips to represent gravel and sand. Review groundwater, which is the water that moves through the cracks in soil, rock and sand. Ask students to fill a cup 1/3 full with chocolate chips. Have them add soda to cover this layer. Direct them to put a scoop of ice cream into the cup to form a confining layer over the chocolate chips, or aquifers. Add another layer of chips over the ice cream, and coat with sprinkles to create a porous top layer. Have the children add food coloring to the soda, observing its effects when poured on their aquifers. Ask the children to drill wells by inserting a straw through the parfait's center. Challenge them to suck on the straw and pump the well, studying the decrease in the water table. Focus the children on the concentration of contaminants, or food coloring, in the well area and how they leak through the ice cream. Have them recharge their aquifers by pouring soda onto their parfaits.

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