River Model

River Model Lesson Video:

Lesson Plan:

*You can use the document in the link below to either: tailor the experiment to your needs or to have a printable version of this lesson plan*

Google Doc of River Model Lesson Plan

The plan is editable and printable. Copy the Google Doc in your own drive and make edits or you can just print.


Students will analyze the symbiotic relationship between river systems and communities by creating a replica river system with the option of having a flooding river or a running river.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this experiment, students will be able to:

  1. Build a river.
  2. Analyze the effects of river flooding.
  3. Observe how the flood renewed the farmlands for nutritious soil for crops.

Alignment with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards)

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems. 

MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 – 8)

MS-ETS1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


STEAM Subjects: 

Science (Chemistry) and Art

Science Vocabulary: 

River Bifurcation – River bifurcation occurs when a river flowing in a single stream separates into two or more separate streams which continue downstream 


20 mins


  • 1 Foil Pan 
    • Either a 9×13 or a 21 x 13” 
  • Dirt 
    • 2 quarts per student or 0.07 of a cubic foot bag for a 9×13 pan
    • 5 quarts per student or 0.16 cubic foot bag for a 21 x 13 pan
  • Water 
  • Bottle with a narrow opening
    • Alternatively, use a plastic cup with a hole punctured on the side.
  • Aluminum Foil
    • ~2 feet per student 
  • Tape 
  • Scissors
  • Nail
  • Book/Box
  • Small Bowl

Special Thank You to Our Funding From:

CSUCI Faculty MiniGrant Program