Lessons & Activities: Dams
Activity Topic Grade
Time Special Materials
Build a Dam:
Can you build one out of popsicle sticks and small rocks?
Dams 3-4,
ZOOM 45 min. n/a
Busy as a Beaver:
Build a dam using materials from nature.
Dams 3-4,
ASCEville 45 min. n/a
Under Pressure:
Investigate the behavior of water in plastic water bottles spilling through holes punctured at different heights.
Dams: Water Pressure 3-4,
Teach Engineering 30 min. For leader: drill with ~1/8-in bit or a sharp-pointed object to punch 1/8-in holes and stopwatch. Per team: 2-liter plastic bottle
Dam Forces:
Learn how the force of water helps determine the size and shape of dams.
Dams: Multiple Types 5-6,
Teach Engineering 30 min. Per group: 25 lbs. air-dry modeling clay (bought online). Per team: 1 large waterproof bin; 4 small disposable plastic containers; 1 cup sand; 10-15 small dominoes, wood or metal blocks
Dam Pass or Fail:
Research and investigate the success or failure of eight dams and complete a worksheet.
Dams: Multiple Types 5-6,
Teach Engineering 45 min. Per team: Internet access
Construct a model of a river system with levees.
Dams: Levees 5-6,
NOVA 45 min. Per group: 10 lbs. modeling clay. Per team: Large flat tray with side or aluminum baking pan
Four Corners Reservoir:
Build 4 different types of dams and test them.
Dams: Multiple Types 5-6,
ASCEville 45 min. Per group: 25 lbs. air-dry clay (bought online); Per team: 1 large disposable aluminum baking dish (c. 18”x13”)
Under Pressure:
How great is the water pressure?
Dams: Water Pressure 5-6,
Building Big 30 min. Per team: 2 liter plastic bottles, awl or sharp scissors, acrylic caulk
Building a water turbine and explore dams and hydroelectric power.
Dams: hydroelectric power 7-8 ASCEville 45 min. n/a

*Indicates whether an activity is suitable for a community event. Activities considered appropriate for a large-scale community event are attention-grabbing but simple; use inexpensive materials; require minimal instruction, supervision, and cleanup; and can be modified to take place over a short period of time (about 15-20 minutes).