Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this activity children investigate healthy rivers. Younger children experiment with how various objects float or sink. Older children are asked to imagine that a large tub of water is a river and watch as various materials (contaminants) are added to the river and affect the health of the river. Children are asked to make assessments about what is a healthy river and how we can keep our rivers healthy.

EYLF Learning Outcome


Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world

3. Children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment

Outcome 4: Children are involved and confident learners

1. Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity

2. Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, enquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating

3. Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another

4. Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and processed materials


Equipment needed: 

Ages – 0 to 2

  • Tub or bucket of water.
  • Range of materials that either float or sink (such as peoples, shells, sand, feathers, paper, leaves, short sticks, corks etc.

Ages – 2 to 5

  • 5 cups containing 5 different contaminants. You can use the actual contaminants or substitute the contaminants with less real (and less dangerous or disgusting) contaminants. Examples of contaminants could include – oil, paint, detergent, dog poo, chemicals, old medicine, garden fertiliser.
  • Empty fish tank, clear plastic tub or large clear soft drink bottle.
  • Large stirring spoon that won’t be used for food preparation.
  • Small plastic toy marine animals that can be cleaned (optional).

Supporting resources:

  • Tell the story of a drop of water.

Other resources:

Cool Australia Presents Water from Cool Australia on Vimeo.


The team at Cool Australia continually reviews and refines our Early Learning resources in line with expert advice and current educational practices.



Teacher Worksheet

Background information:

You have to love water. Water is, without a doubt, the most incredible substance we know. All life depends on it. Although water covers three quarters of our Earth’s surface, the freshwater that so much of life depends upon only makes up 1% of this water – just a tiny sliver scattered on this earth to support us all.

Activities that we do on land can affect the quality of our water. Our waste often gets washed into our waterways and coasts without any treatment. This waste might be the big bits that you can see like plastic bags, dead animals, dog poo and cigarette butts. But it’s also the tiny, microscopic nasties that we can’t see. They build up and pollute our water to such an extent that waterways become unliveable for native plants, fish and animals.

The sea has long been a dumping ground for all sorts of things: rubbish, sewage, industrial waste, stormwater. Ever seen those pipes along the coast that run out from the land way out to sea? Well, they're n

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