What Trickles Down?

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Learners design their own experiment to explore the permeability of different materials such as soil, sand, gravel, and marbles. They will also be introduced to the basic concepts of building design, landscape architecture, and environmental pollutant transport. As an extension activity, learners will discuss the importance of proper drainage and urban design issues in sensitive environments such as coastal areas.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • graduated cylinder
  • 4 medium empty steel soup cans with top and bottom removed (remove with can opener)
  • gravel (enough to fill one of the cans 3/4 of the way up)
  • sand (enough to fill one of the cans 3/4 of the way up)
  • soil (enough to fill one of the cans 3/4 of the way up)
  • marbles (enough to fill one of the cans 3/4 of the way up)
  • 4 pieces of cheesecloth cut into squares large enough to cover the bottoms of the cans with a little extra
  • 4 large rubber bands (big enough to go around the cans)
  • medium size mixing bowl or small bucket to catch water


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Agricultural Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Zaheer, Usman ; McGauvran, Sherry

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2013