Explore the waterways with a DIY sailboat

Show kids the importance of streams and rivers, home to diverse plants and animals. Help them design a boat to explore this important microhabitat.

Make It!

What you’ll need:
• An assortment of corks
• Wooden toothpicks or skewers
• Hot glue
• 2 rubber bands
• Spool of twine
• Milk or juice carton, thin craft foam, or other sturdy recycled materials to use as sails
• Scissors
• Fabric or other environmentally friendly craft supplies to decorate the sail (optional)

Try It!

• Follow the boat’s path for about one minute, then stop and write down what you see. Now follow the boat for another minute. What’s changed? Are the plants different? Are there more or less of them? Are other animals hanging out in this new spot?

• Try navigating the boat to hit a target in the water, like water plants or a rock. How do you think other creatures in the waterway interact with whatever’s stopped your boat? Why is this target important to the waterway?

• Pretend your boat is a fish. What do you think happens as it travels down the river? What will it see? How will it behave? What will it eat? Then try thinking about the boat as a bird, or even a water snake. 

Save It!

Now that kids appreciate their local waterways, inspire them to protect it. Here are some ideas:

• Since only a limited amount of freshwater is available on Earth, water conservation in our homes helps keep our rivers flowing. Here’s one idea for a cold glass of water: Instead of running tap water until it cools off or adding ice cubes that you’ll later toss, keep a jug of water in the refrigerator.

• Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our waterways as it travels toward the ocean and affects marine life. Have kids come up with ideas to decrease your family’s plastic use, like making pom-poms instead of using balloons for parties, or crafting your own paper straws. (For these ideas and more, check out tips and DIYs just for children our Kids vs. Plastic hub, or read this article on decreasing plastic as a family.)

• Try collecting stormwater in rain barrels, which prevents the water from picking up contaminants as it travels to rivers and streams. Kids can use the water in barrels—instead of water from hoses or faucets—to give plants a drink.

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