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Every week we feature a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. This week, I had the opportunity to talk with Francis Bouba-Dalambaye, country director for Heifer Senegal. He talked about the very difficult dry season farmers in his country face, leaving them without a food source for two to three months a year. Heifer is working to teach these farmers about drought-resistant agriculture including improved animal breeds and plants, as well as working to provide safer and more abundant water. This got me thinking about water supplies and how people would get water in drier or more rural climates, and I came across this activity to help kids understand how people get water from wells.

Create Your own Water Well

Model WellPhoto credit:


  • Cardboard toilet paper tube
  • Large, empty coffee can
  • Gravel (like from a fish or pet store)
  • Sand
  • Water

Stand the toilet paper tube in the center of the bottom of the coffee can. Hold the tube steady and pour a layer of the gravel around the bottom outside edge (not inside the tube), making the gravel layer about 2" deep. Pour a layer of sand on top of the gravel. Some of the sand will fill gaps in the gravel; the rest will build up to make another layer, which should be about 1½" deep. Make sure no sand gets inside the tube. After pouring the sand, about ½" of the cardboard tube should still be sticking up above the sand and gravel. (The sand and gravel layers represent the soil and the tube represents the well.)

Now it's time to see how wells get their water. What do you think will happen when you add water to the sand and gravel? Pour water onto the sand and gravel (NOT into the tube), continuing until the water level reaches the very top of the sand layer.

Keep your eye on the the tube. What happens?

Where is the water in the well coming from? How does the water get inside the well? How is this miniature well related to real-life wells? Why is it important to be aware of what we put in our soil?

Find out more about this activity and how it relates to real-life wells.

Read about a current Heifer project in Senegal in World Ark online.


Linda Meyers

Linda Meyers, an Arkansas transplant originally from St. Louis, Mo., started working at Heifer International in 2011. She enjoys dragging her three children on nature hikes and snapping photos of them and everything around her. She has a bachelor’s degree in English has been “in the process” of writing the great American novel for 24 years.