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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Hewett

Classroom Ideas – River in a Bottle

Now this method to teaching river transportation processes has to be one of my all time favourite teaching resources.

I came up with the idea during my NQT a few years ago and have been using it every year since. The visibiilty of the processes taking place engages learners and helps them to imagine the process occurring in a river channel.

The Basic Concept

The basic concept is that each bottle represents an example of the river load that might be found in any given river – when moved from side to side the river load moves in a similar manner to real life.

river processes transport

Each bottle contains material of different sizes.

Bottle A – medium sized pebbles to represent boulders and large rocks Bottle B – small pebbles to represent small pebbles and stones Bottle C – sand to represent fine material Bottle D – chalk to represent dissolved materials

How it works I hold the bottles on their side to create ‘a section of the river’ and then gently shake the bottles from side to side.

As each bottle is shaken the ‘river load’ is transported along the section of the river.

Each bottle then represents a different transportation process

Bottle A – Traction – large boulders and rocks are rolled along the river bed. Bottle B – Saltation – small pebbles and stones are bounced along the river bed Bottle C – Suspension – fine light material is carried along in the water. Bottle D – Solution – minerals are dissolved in the water and carried along in solution


With some groups I will use the bottles on their own whilst with other groups I will use laminated cards with images of the transport process, descriptions and names which we then match up to the bottles.

transport process descriptions

If you use the idea, please share a photo or two. It’d be great to see others approaches to the idea.

Mrs Humanities
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