Theme: Community Helpers

Under Pressure


Objective: Children will explore water flow and pressure and learn how firefighters need and use water in their job.

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What You Will Need

  • ½ gallon empty milk or juice container - 1 per child
  • Phillips head screwdriver or sharp scissors to make holes in the container
  • Water
  • Large, shallow container to catch the water such as a tub or a basin
  • Variety of waterproof containers from the recycling bin - one for each child
  • Masking tape
  • Paper towels or beach towels

What To Do

Note: This lesson involves the use of water. You may want to do the activity outside.

  1. Read a story about firefighters. Talk about what they do and the objects and materials that help them do their job. If the children mention water, respond with some probing questions. Otherwise, ask how firefighters stop fires from spreading - what do they use? Where does the water come from? How do they get the water to the fire? They need a lot of water, and they need the water to be fast and powerful. How do they do that?
  2. Let the children watch as you poke three holes through one side of the ½ gallon container. The holes should all be the same size and in a row. The first hole should be about 3 inches from the bottom of the container. The second hole should be directly above the first hole and midway up the side of the container. The third hole should be directly above the other two holes and near the top of the container.
  3. Cover all of the holes with one large piece of the masking tape.
  4. Fill the container with water. Set the container on the edge of a table above the shallow container or on the ledge of the sink or on a chair or stool above the water table. The higher the container is from where the water will land, the more interesting it will be.
  5. Ask the children, “What do you think will happen if I take the tape off of the holes?” Remove the tape. Watch the children and listen to their observations as the water flows from the holes.
  6. What happened when I took the tape off? Did water come out of all of the holes?
  7. Was it the same for each hole? Did some water come out faster or slower? Did the water come out of the holes the same way? Did some water flow out and land closer or further from the container and into the sink, water table, basin?
  8. Gather the children and let each child choose one of the empty plastic containers that you collected. Tell the children that they will be doing a similar experiment. They can choose to poke 1, 2, or 3 holes anywhere on their container. Go around the group and use the screwdriver to create the holes that they ask for.
  9. As each child is ready, let them begin to experiment with the water. If you are inside, station small groups of children at the water table, the sink, and around the basin.
  10. Ask questions such as: What do you think will happen when you put water in your container?
  11. Encourage the children to compare the streams that flow from the different holes. Does the water flow out of each hole in the same way? Is some water coming out faster/slower? Does some of the water go further?
  12. Can the children experiment further by covering some of the holes or changing the amount of water that they pour into their container?
  13. Give the children an opportunity to share and compare their discoveries with each other.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me about firefighters. What do they do? How do they help us?
  • Firefighters use water to put out fires. Where does the water come from?
  • Have you ever seen a fire truck travelling to a fire? What did you see? What did you hear?
  • Tell me some of the ways that you use water. Where do you use water? What do you do with it?
  • When water comes out of the faucet in the sink or the bath tub, how do you make it come out slow? How do you make is come out fast?
  • How does the water feel on your hands when it comes out of the faucet quickly? Slowly?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Add some of these suggested items to your water table. You can add all of the items at once or start at the top of the list and add a new one every day. Measuring cups, water wheels, sieves, funnels, turkey basters, clear tubing (available at home improvement centers).
  • Create a fire station in your dramatic play area. Include some firefighter hats and red shirts. Cut an inexpensive garden hose into several shorter pieces. Find some used rain boots or snow boots, some gardening gloves, a phone, and a bell. You could also add a map of your community or state.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to participate in the conversation about the responsibilities of a firefighter?
  • Did each child experiment with the water using the different materials and observe the flow of water?

Did You Know?

Firefighters are important community helpers who work very hard to keep people and communities safe. Firefighters extinguish (put out) fires, rescue people from fires, and try to prevent fires. Fighting fires is a dangerous and exhausting job. When firefighters are not out fighting fires, they make sure that their equipment is clean and working. They also practice how to fight fires. Firefighters wear special clothing to protect themselves from the fire, heat, and smoke. 

Pressure controls water flow. Water flow is slower when there is less pressure and water flow is faster when there is more pressure. Pressure can be controlled in many ways. Firefighters use a pumper truck to increase the pressure on the water that comes from a fire hydrant. The extra pressure provided by the pumper truck pushes the water through the fire hose with more force, making the water flow quicker and further.  

During your experiment, if the container is full of water, the water will come out forcefully from the bottom hole because there is a lot of water pushing down and applying pressure to the water at the bottom. The water flowing out of the top hole has the least amount of pressure on it so the water will flow with less force and travel a shorter distance. The width of the holes also affects the flow rate. Smaller holes create more pressure, so they increase the flow rate of the water. 

Did You Know?

Firefighters are important community helpers who work very hard to keep people and communities safe. Firefighters extinguish (put out) fires, rescue people from fires, and try to prevent fires. Fighting fires is a dangerous and exhausting job. When firefighters are not out fighting fires, they make sure that their equipment is clean and working. They also practice how to fight fires. Firefighters wear special clothing to protect themselves from the fire, heat, and smoke.

Learn More

Vocabulary

  • firefighter — a firefighter is a person who works to put out fires to protect people, property, and communities.
  • water — the clear liquid that is in rain and that comes out of our faucets. We drink it.
  • flow — when a liquid like water or juice or milk is moving in a slow, steady stream we say that the liquid is flowing.
  • pressure — when you apply a steady force on something like a liquid and it changes the flow of the liquid, you are using pressure.
  • slow — not moving fast or quickly; not able to move fast.
  • quick — happening very soon, very fast.

Vocabulary

  • firefighter
  • water
  • flow
  • pressure
  • slow
  • quick

Child-Friendly Definitions

Lesson Tips

  • This activity is a fun open-ended experience. The children do not get dirty, but they will probably get wet. You can save it for a warm, sunny day. Or, stay inside and cover the floor with towels. If you stay indoors, the children can work around a small baby pool to help contain the water.
  • Food coloring can be added to the water to help the children see the flow more easily. Use a small amount of each color because food coloring can stain clothing.

Books

  • Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest
  • I Want to be a Firefighter by Dan Liebman
  • The Firefighters by Sue Whiting
  • All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon
  • Water by Frank Asch

Common Core State
Standards Initiative

These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.[2]

Visit the CCSS website

Important Legal Disclosures & Information

  1. While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed. 

  2. There are currently no Common Core Standards for pre-k, but these lessons are aligned as closely as possible to capture the requirements and meet the goals of Common Core Standards. However, these lessons were neither reviewed or approved by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices or the Council of Chief State School Officers, which together are the owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.