Thursday, January 08, 2015

"It's A Water Volcano"

A couple months ago, I wrote about about some spontaneous experiments in hydraulic engineering (here and here), truly amazing stuff, not taught, but learned through a group of kids working together to manage the flow of water. This week they've added a new trick to their repertoire.

I've often written about the junkyard chic ethic of our outdoor space and our deployment of "loose parts," one of which is a vacuum cleaner hose. It gets used almost every day, mostly to fight fires, but lately, some of the kids have been trying to attach it to the cast iron water pump. Water flows through it, but it's not a water tight system by any means with about half the flow leaking out around where it attaches to the pump. Still, enough travels through the hose that the kids can use it to direct at least some of the water.

When I arrived on the scene there was a circle of guys using shovels to make a big pile of sand. There was water on the ground, nearly surrounding it, and I said, "You made an island."

"It's not an island, Teacher Tom, it's a volcano. It really works!"

"It really erupts lava?"

"No, water! It's a water volcano. We buried the hose under it."

Upon closer inspection, I saw that the vacuum cleaner hose was attached to the pump spout and extended down under the pile of sand. As one guy pumped, the rest of us stood in a circle around the volcano, waiting. 

It took a few minutes, but sure enough, the volume of water was sufficient that it broke through the crust and flowed down the volcano's flanks, causing mini-landslides, before forming into a river that flowed according to gravity's dictates.

We stood in our circle, studying, talking about what we observed. Then someone said, "Let's do it again!" and we did.

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1 comment:

Rafer Nelsen said...

Tom, while you were fixing the electric pencil sharpener with a couple kids on Tuesday, something caught my eye up by the pump, not sure exactly what it was, but I wandered up there and discovered the scene you describe with the vacuum cleaner hose. It was such a beehive of cooperative activity, and so captivating to watch, that I broke an internal rule I have and took two 1-minute videos with my phone. The first video shows the beginning, where the group has first created "an underground spring" with the hose, which is how it all started. The second video, taken just a little later, shows the addition of the volcano, atop the old spring, which is where it ended. Though, come to think of it, it is probably "to be continued", or perhaps was continued on Wednesday, and thereafter. It was really fun to witness. - Rafer

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