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Beaver Dams Versus Human Dams

Beavers build dams to stop the flow of water which creates a pond that is safe from predators to build a lodge in. They do this by using sticks, branches, rocks, grass, and mud from their surrounding environment. Humans build dams to prevent flooding, store energy, or supply water to homes and farms. They use materials like earth, rock, and concrete.

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Driving Question

  • Are human dams or beaver dams more effective?

Probing Questions

  • Why do you think beavers build dams?
  • Why do you think humans build dams?
  • Do you think that humans and beavers have the same purpose in building dams?
  • How might humans mimic the design of dams from beavers?
  • How might dams built by humans differ from dams built by beavers?

Classroom Suggestions

Students could:

  • Work together outside to find materials in the environment to build miniature beaver dams. There is a lesson describing how to do this in the first link below.
  • Draw and design a beaver dam.
  • Use water to test beaver dams and simulate real wildlife.
  • Investigate why their dams did or did not stop water.
  • Build a dam similar to one that humans would make and test it. There is a lesson describing how to do this in the second link below.
  • Compare human dams to beaver dams.
    • Which dam stopped water better?
    • Why did it stop water better?

Relevant Related Resources

  • Slides of Dam Images: These images show both beaver dams and human dams.
  • Build a Beaver Dam Experiment: This lesson plan uses basic materials to construct a beaver dam with students that allows you to see how they stop water.
  • Build a Human Dam Experiment: This experiment allows students to build/design their own human dam and test it.
  • Human Dam Resources: This link provides information on human dams as well as kid friendly activities, videos, and readings.
  • Beaver Unit K-3: This link leads to a resource that includes worksheets, activities, videos and books to read about beavers, their lodges and more.
  • 10 Beaver Crafts: This link leads to a few cute and easy-to-do beaver crafts.

Iowa Core Alignment

Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Credit Info

Phenomena submitted by Haley Jacobsen and Sadie Callow

Video from Nature on PBS

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