Name of Activity Filtration Project
Author STOMP
Keywords Filter, environmental engineering, budget
Subject Building/EDP, Earth Science
Grade Level 5
Time 2-3 Hours Total
Brief Description Kids will create a water filter, attempting to make the dirty water given to them as clean as possible.
Lesson Objectives: -to understand why it is important that our water is filtered
-to understand how different materials filter differently
-Practice testing and prototype building
Materials Needed: – Dirty water: can use things such as: glitter, dirt, leaves, small sticks, food coloring
– plastic cups
– cotton balls
– uncooked beans
– jelly beans
– gauze
– coffee filters
– any other filter type stuff you feel would be good to include
– 2L plastic bottles (or large cups (clear) and funnels)
– paper
– pencils
Preparation and Set Up: First you must make your dirty water by mixing together all of your dirty water ingredients. You then separate the top, cone-shaped part of the 2L bottle from the rest of the bottle using a sharp knife. By flipping this severed piece upside down, you create a container and a funnel. Each group receives one of these 2L bottles. Each group also receives a small plastic cup full of dirty testing water. Before any testing begins, your groups should come up with a filter design on their piece of paper (keeping in mind which materials they want to use and how they want their filter to be structured).
Knowledge Background
It’s nice to ask the kids how they think filters work and why it is important for us to have clean water. It’s also nice to give a brief description on how our drinking water actually does get filtered.
Procedure Your groups should first design their ideal filter on a piece of paper. Each group then comes up to you with their idea to be “approved”, and you give them the necessary materials. They then build their filter within the funnel and test their filter using their given dirty water. Once their water gets filtered, the students in each group should take notes on the state of the filtered water and what they think worked and what they think didn’t. Students should then redesign and retest to create a better filter.
Extensions: You can give the students a “budget” so that filtration materials cost a certain amount of money. This, for example, prevents kids from just grabbing twenty cotton balls and shoving them into the funnel and teaches them a little more about the business side of engineering.
Modifications: -lower the budget each time
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Types of Engineering
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2 Responses to Filtration Project

  1. Chris Keyes and I used this activity as part of our Intro to Engineering Unit, but we split it up into two days. Our theme was solving the mystery of the stolen Van der Graaff Generator at the Museum of Science. We had caught the culprit, but she refused to tell us where the generator was unless we cleaned up the Charles River that museum-goers had been polluting. So we talked about why clean water is important and how to tell if water is dirty or clean. We brainstormed ways to address that problem (signs telling people to not throw their trash in the river, more garbage cans, cleaning up the river).

    On the first day we presented the kids with the materials we had: cotton fabric, coffee filters, cotton balls, straws, plastic cups, newspaper, felt/foam. We also showed them the “sample of Charles River” that was actually just dirty water we had made using soil, fertilizer, oil, coffee grounds, and sand. (PROTIP: Don’t use fertilizer; your water will smell like rotten eggs after two weeks.) We talked about the properties of absorbency and porosity, and how they should keep that in mind while they designed. We had the students plan individual designs of their water filters, clearly labeling which materials they would be using. And then within their groups of three, they had to share their designs and come up with one design that incorporated all three designs.

    On the second day (which was two weeks after the first because of Thanksgiving) we had them get materials as soon as their designs were approved, and most of the day was spent building and testing and rebuilding. One group used a water bottle instead of cups. At the end we did a quick clean up, and talked about the challenges they ran into and how they could improve their designs.

  2. Mile and I are doing this activity in Ms. McCormick’s 5th grade classes at the Brook’s school. We will pre-make some dirty water with things like dirt, food coloring, rocks, plastic bags, etc. The kids then are given a set of separate materials to design a filtration device/system and try and make their water clear. The lesson is preceded by a short introduction to filtration and water quality. The lesson is the first lesson in our civil engineering and urban planning unit.

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