There are about 300 major waterfalls documented in North America alone. Majestic landforms like Niagara Falls can teach students about much more than just nature. Teachers can develop a number of lesson plans and project assignments regarding the natural phenomenon of waterfalls, educating students on how the properties of these landmarks also relate to science and geography.
To teach students about a number of waterfalls, have each student create a replica and report for a famous waterfall. Encourage students to create models by molding landforms and rocks out of clays, and papier mache, with water represented by paints, streamers or cellophane. Have students show off their models to the class along with an informative presentation.
For older students, create a lesson on neurophysiology based on waterfalls' movement. Take a field trip or use large visual aids in the classroom, like projection screens to focus on the rushing water flow of the falls. After staring at the streaming water, then staring at a stationary item, like trees, the brain plays a trick on you, appearing to move the stationary item. An excellent look into how the brain works, the waterfall effect is both interactive and engaging.
Kinetic Energy of Waterfalls
Engineers have long studied the physics of waterfalls to create man-made variations of the natural landforms, used in conjunction with dams and power plants as a source to create energy. By pouring water from varying heights, students can visualize the power created by the water, measured in each pour's splash size. This project shows students the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy.
Waterfalls are often the result of erosion throughout river beds. Use soil and rocks to demonstrate to students how erosion occurs through the power of water, by having groups of students complete erosion experiments. Use angled wood planks covered in soil and rocks to represent bank sides, and have students pour buckets of water down the bank side, moving layers of the river bed. Students will be able to visualize how the force and angle at which water is flowing creates new landforms.
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