If you would like your child to grow up to be environmentally conscious, you will need to teach some tough concepts at an age-appropriate level. Erosion is one concept that affects our lives – it destroys plant life, steals the soil we use for farming, but many people do not understand how important it is and how to try to prevent it. You can bring this concept to life with hands-on activities about erosion.
Simple Erosion Model
For younger kids, you will want to choose a simple model to explain how erosion works. You can put a piece of chalk into a cup of vinegar or a couple of sugar cubes into a cup of water. Then show your child how shaking or stirring the cup -- in other words, moving the water over the chalk or sugar -- makes them dissolve faster. That is erosion, in a nutshell!
Realistic Erosion Model
If you want to make your model more realistic, you can try this simple activity. Older kids can pour potting soil into an aluminum pan and then tilt the pan slightly. When they pour water onto the higher end of the pan, they will be able to see the soil wash away -- or erode. To show how plant roots prevent soil from eroding, repeat this experiment using sod instead of dirt, and see how much less of the soil erodes.
Walk around the neighborhood with your child and take note of the types of erosion you find. Look especially around the downspouts, and near any streams or creeks you find in parks or conservation land or and look at any erosion you find on dirt paths. Your child can draw pictures of the erosion you see and write down what probably caused the erosion, where the eroded material has gone, what any negative effects of the erosion might be, and how the erosion could be prevented.
Erosion and Earth
This activity can help your child understand what a serious problem erosion is. Hold up an apple, and explain that the apple represents the Earth. Then cut off three quarters of the earth and put these pieces aside. Explain that three quarters of the Earth are covered with water, so they cannot grow food. Cut the remaining quarter in half and explain that one half of the remaining land is made up of desert, polar ice caps, mountains ranges or other areas that also cannot grow crops. Cut the small remaining piece into four pieces, and aside set three of these pieces. Explain that three quarters of the remaining land cannot be farmed because it makes up the cities, parks, or and suburbs where people live -- or because that region is not hospitable for farming. That leaves only one tiny area left -- and only the topsoil is arable. Make sure your child understands how erosion of that topsoil destroys the tiny bit of area we have to grow food on.