Building Beaver Dams

I gave the girls a design challenge in the fall to go collect natural materials and use them to build a beaver dam. They had a lot of fun with it, and I think they did a lot of experiential learning. Watch them work:

I drilled a hole at one end of each plant tray (it has to be the type without holes of course, and should be a strong one as some are built very flimsy). We put them up on our green grocery bins and used some folded newspaper to create a slight incline. The girls collected all the clay, mud, soil, rocks, sticks etc. I provided them with some clippers and a little cutting saw.

Beforehand, we had a little talk about why beavers build dams.

We also talked about what a keystone species is (a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend, such that if it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically). And we watched a couple of videos:

Here are a few of books to pair with the activity (click on the book image to read more):

Links to the Ontario Science Curricula (as of May 2021):

  • Grade 1. Understanding Life Systems: Needs and Characteristics of Living Things
  • Grade 1. Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Materials, Objects, and Everyday Structures
  • Grade 2. Understanding Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Animals
  • Grade 2. Understanding Matter and Energy: Properties of Liquids and Solids
  • Grade 2. Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Air and Water in the Environment
  • Grade 3. Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Strong and Stable Structures
  • Grade 3. Understanding Matter and Energy: Forces Causing Movement
  • Grade 3. Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Soils in the Environment
  • Grade 4. Understanding Life Systems: Habitats and Communities

You can also check out the mid-June Step Outside guide: Beavers: the Boreal Engineers. I wrote these with Alan Crook many moons ago when we worked together at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in the Biodiversity Section. They are hyperlinked guides to seasonal events.

If you prefer to read an actual book as a guide to seasonal events, I suggest the books by Drew Monkman and Mary Holland below. These are my treasured coffee table books, and they make great gifts should you be lucky enough to be invited to someone’s camp/cottage. Click on the book images to read descriptions.

Get outside into nature to learn with and fall in love with the real thing! Kate