Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our Own Water Wall

I first learned about the "water wall" concept from Jenny over at Let The Children Play and have been noodling it around for some time. I knew I could build one all by myself, but I was attracted by the idea of seeing if we could come up with a way for the children to make it their own.

Not only that, but I was hoping to replace the fun of climbing onto a step ladder to pour water into this contraption we have lashed onto our beach hut.

The kids have hardly tired of climbing atop the step ladder with buckets of water to pour into the funnel. This has resulted in both regular flooding of our construction area (creating something of an soggy-shoed work environment) and a bit of a safety concern (the fall-zone is mostly asphalt and the shorter kids were forced to use the top step of the ladder, which is a poor safety practice for anyone). If we were going to build a water wall, I wanted one that still got the kids up on the ladder, but in the sand pit instead, where concerns about flooding and a hard fall zone were minimized.

We'd saved the framework from an old set of Ikea shelves we dismantled last year which seemed like a likely starting point. We also have a lot of peg board left over from another project and a nice collection of sawed off soda bottles and tubes that we use for indoor, sensory table water play. Several months ago, I'd purchased a package of very inexpensive zip ties with nothing particular in mind. It was with only a general idea of how these elements would go together that I turned the concept over the Charlie L.'s mom Shelly and Anjali's mom Reshma yesterday. My main instruction was, "Start making it and see if you can draw the kids into helping." I then moved on to other things.

When I retuned a few minutes later, Shelly and Reshma were managing an excited group of kids, wearing safety glasses, through the process of nailing the peg board to the frame. Honestly, I would have been thrilled if that's as far as they got yesterday.

When I returned again, the kids had attached their first pop bottle funnel to the top of the peg board using  the zip ties and were discussing what should happen to the water after it got poured into the top. Honestly, I would have been thrilled if that's as far as they got yesterday.

Each time I returned to the scene they had made more progress until they pronounced it complete and marched it over to the sand pit to install it against a wall. I'm still floored that they built this whole thing in about a half hour. I'm even more impressed that this adult managed, child directed project was created under the tutelage of Shelly and Reshma, two parents who have told me that they are a little uncomfortable working in our construction area.

As you can see the water goes into the top, then immediately
diverts into one of two directions.

The water that flows into the container with the yellow rim
is then dispersed like a shower through a dozen tiny holes poked
in the bottom and ultimately into a 2-liter bottle with a
few holes poked in the side to allow it to eventually drain.

The water that flows in the other direction, down the long
tube goes through a series of funnels and then directly into
the sand.

For the next half hour kids stood in line with their full buckets awaiting their turn to climb to the top of the step ladder and try it out. 

We have another section of shelving frame, more peg board, zip ties, tubes and cut up soda bottles. I think we'll try to make a companion water wall on Wednesday.

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Scott said...

What a cool contraption--two paths, lots of different ways the water travels through the wall and into the ground. Ingenious.

I wonder if an adult manager who felt more "comfortable" in the construction area would have micromanaged the children's ideas? Hmmm.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

You know the best part of this? (From a teacher's point of view...) Since everything is zip-tied to the board, it can easily be taken apart when school ends for the summer and rebuilt every year. The only question is whether to have all new soda bottles so that next year's design starts from scratch (except for the returning kids...oh, my goodness, I can see this becoming more and more the kids' project!)

Liz said...

Oh my good golly gosh Tom how spooky that you would post this today. Sherry and I had big discussions yesterday on where we are going to build our water wall, which apart from our vegie garden is the next big group project we have planned for this term. I LOVE, LOVE LOVE yours and although our idea is a little different I'll definitely be taking a much closer look at your wall before we begin. I hadn't thought of all those hoses but now my brain is beginning to tick over ... Thanks Tom
Donna :) :)

Anonymous said...

That is really cool, and I bet it absorbs the children's attention for a long time.

SurprisedMom said...

The creativity of children never ceases to amaze me. They did a wonderful job. I hope it brings them hours of pleasure.

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

I too have been dreaming of doing this since seeing the idea on Let The Children Play blog. Awesome!
If I dont get to it this schoolyear, I'm starting with it next August. How inspiring! Love watching your process w/ the kids. Thanks.

Deborah Stewart said...

That is very cool Tom!

Desiree Wong said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!! :) Ugh...i totally wish that i was 4 and in your class! :P

Michele @ The Hills are Alive said...

Love it - I too had not thought of the 'peg board' and had been wondering how we could get away with nailing to the backyard fence in our rented property. Now I think I have a perfect solution and its off to the "tip shop" for some upcycled garbage
Thanks Teacher Tom (and all the earlier water walls around the net) for the inspiration