April 11, 2011

The Aqueduct

Whenever Casia and I are in the middle of a unit in history or science, I am always on the look-out for cool projects to do. While doing the unit on Ancient Rome, I ran across this post on a blog that I follow, called Ina's 5 & Our Native Homeschool Blog: Working Aqueduct Model. I was so inspired by the aqueduct model because it really worked! Knowing Casia is really into architecture, I knew she'd jump at the chance to do something like this- and she did.

The first thing I had Casia do was figure out a design for her model aqueduct. She wanted to have a mountain top where the water would originate and then have the aqueduct come down and fill a fountain. Her idea was to create a fountain that actually squirted the water up. And then she planned to put some finishing details on it like houses, trees, et cetera. Next, I told her to look through the recycling bin and craft supplies to see what she could use to build this. We ended up only needing to buy one thing- the base that it sat on. We spent a couple of dollars at the local craft store to get a solid piece of thin wood, but the rest was made from recycled items and various materials we already possessed.

Casia used a cereal box to create her arches. She used a protractor to measure and ensure right angles and a compass to draw the top arch. She made each successive arch a half-inch smaller than the previous one to create the declining plane. She did all the drawing and measuring but I had to help her cut them out.
Casia used the bottom of a paper towel roll as the top of the aqueduct and taped them all together and to the wooden base.
After that, she told me where to cut the milk carton for the mountain top and we used a little plastic cup as the lake on top as the water source. She taped that down as well. She used a lot of duct tape because it's awesome and works so well!

Casia needed quite a bit of help with the straws. We had to cut through the cups to get them in.

Casia used duct tape to seal the joints where the straw pipes came together. It wasn't the most water tight of methods, but it worked well enough to get the water to the end.

After her first trial run, she noticed two things:

1. The pipes leaked the most where they joined with the cups. I suggested she use glue around the joint to help seal it.

2. She didn't have enough water pressure to get the water to shoot out of the straw in the fountain. I knew we needed to narrow the pipe, but working with straws, I was at a loss on how to do this.

That night, after the aqueduct had had time to dry, she used the glue to seal the lake and fountain containers where the straws entered.
Another day into this project, Casia cut up strips of newspaper to use to paper mache. She planned to cover the entire aqueduct and then paint and decorate it.
Casia made her paster using flour and water (she started with a 1:1 ratio but ended up adding a lot more flour) and some salt. I'd heard that the salt cuts down on mildewing (very important for a working aqueduct.)
Casia enjoyed building the model, but I think doing the paper mache was by far her favorite part. She's always been the kind of kid that likes to get her hands messy.

When it was dry, Casia painted it. About half-way through, she starting complaining. She said painting it isn't as much fun as she thought it would be. Casia never did enjoy coloring in Kindergarten either. 
Here's the model after the painting. The white is supposed to represent the snow on the top of the mountain.
Here's another part Casia loved doing. She gathered some branches and twigs from outside and attached them to her model. 
Casia used clay to make houses and a road. The two in the front are the patrician houses. The shacks behind them were for the plebeians. Clearly this model is not to scale, the fountain is about ten times the size of the houses.

This is Casia's finished model. She got Jacob to help fix the fountain. He came up with this great idea to stick a piece of cork in the end of it and then use a toothpick to create a small hole. 

I video taped Casia's demonstration of her working aqueduct, but somehow in the move, I've misplaced my cord to download the video from the camera. It had a couple of minor leaks, but it really worked. The cork in the end of the fountain allowed for enough pressure to squirt the water up in the middle of the fountain. Casia put in a pipe in the bottom of the fountain to drain the water into a bucket.

When I find my cord, I will post the video. I have to say that this was a really fun and rewarding project and I highly recommend it!


  1. Glad she enjoyed the project as my kids did. It looks beautiful and I am very impressed with the fountain. My kids wanted a fountain but none of us had any idea how to make it. It is wonderful to hear that Cassia got het fountain. Also thanks for the link.

  2. Ina, thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Dear Casia -
    We are a school in Manhattan. We are studying aqueducts and are interested in seeing the video of your working aqueduct model. Did you find the cord yet?
    Thanks so much,
    The 5th grade science class at The Gateway School.

  4. Dear Science Class,
    We are moving in two weeks, so everything is packed, including the video camera. I am sorry that we cannot show you the video.
    I had lots of fun studying aqueducts and Roman architecture and I hope you do too!

  5. I loved reading about Casia's aqueduct project! She did a wonderful job! I am looking at an ancienct history curriculum for my daughter for next year and came across your blog while Googling. thanks for sharing!

  6. Glad you enjoyed it! We loved studying ancient history, I hope you and your daughter will also.