Clairbourn Middle School: Building A Stream – Earth Science Erosion Studies

“It worked! It worked!” was heard from several students in the Clairbourn Jungle this week as they carried out an assignment to build a “river” on a slope to study erosion. As part of their Earth Science studies, students were given the task of creating a river bed that contained a section with fast moving water (typically found in a young river) and a slow moving section that meanders (typically found in an old river).

Using garden tools, sticks, rocks, and other natural elements, students worked in groups to design and create their stream. After flooding the streams with water in constant succession, they then analyzed the movement of water and dirt along their stream beds.

Students noticed that both erosion and deposition occurred as water transported dirt along the river bed. A variety of techniques was employed to control and shape their rivers – banks were built, rocks were used for support along the sides, beds were lined with mud, and trenches were dug. One group even lined their bed with long narrow leaves to control erosion.

Students found that they needed to test many techniques to find one that worked best for their particular situation. This multi-day lab was a great opportunity for students to get their hands (shoes, socks, and sometimes pants) dirty in the name of science.

Sixth-grader Makenna Kibbe said, ”I really like the lab. Making the river beds was like a puzzle in a way – we had to figure how water would flow. We found out that the leaves sometimes worked as a barrier, but not always. Water can penetrate anything over time.”

Clairbourn School, 8400 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 286-3108 or visit




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