If you floated down a river, where would you end up?
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If you floated down a river, where would you end up?
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DISCUSS:

Why do you think a river flows?

Come up with some ideas!

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DISCUSS: Here’s a map showing real rivers in North America. Do the starting points of the rivers have anything in common? What about where they end?

River Map

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.

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Readings

These readings are free with registration on ReadWorks, a nonprofit committed to providing teachers with research-proven, Common-Core-aligned readings. All readings include comprehension questions.

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Online Resource: Exploring Rivers

Streamer, a website created by the US Geological Survey, lets you explore rivers all over the United States.

  • Click on Go To Map, then type your location in the search box on the upper right.
  • Find a nearby river. To see where that river starts, choose Trace Upstream (at the top of the screen), then click on the river.
  • To see where the river ends, choose Trace Downstream (at the top of the screen), then click on the river.
  • For a surprise, search for the Mississippi River and trace it upstream and downstream. The Mississippi is the biggest river in the United States!
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Things to notice: Where does water flow?

Next time it rains, look for puddles. Why are puddles in some places, but not in others? What do you think is different about the places where there are puddles?

riversonbernal

Look at this hillside. Can you see anything that tells you where water has flowed?

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
forest by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Aleksey Stemmer
baby owl by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Watthano
deer by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Pierre Watson
frog by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Jay Connors
tadpoles by Aquarium and Terrarium Life
stream by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Maksym Darakchi
kid holding bottle by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: spwidoff
bottle floating by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Fotohunt
bottle floating down a river by LittleBigVoice
water bottle by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: janonkas
ocean by iknowcaleb
tubing on American River by Beyond Limits Adventures
barge by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Lacokozyna
wind in tree by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Meryll
flowing river by Doug Von Gausig
clear stream by Don Bendickson
kid floating in water by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: MaszaS
plains by Richard Webb
hills by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: chaivit chana
mountains by Jon Sullivan
Activity
mountain - aerial view by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: gagarych
spray bottle by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Africa Studio
Print
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students develop a model of the earth’s surface and use it to discover an important principle about how rivers work. In the activity, Paper Mountains, students take turns using a spray bottle to make rain fall on paper models of mountains to observe patterns of how water and rivers flow.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
Recycled is fine as long as one side is blank.
Details
30 sheets
Markers
Ideally dark blue or dark green. Choose a color that looks like water.
Details
15 markers
Table Covering (eg. Trash Bags)
16 bags
Dot Stickers
We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape also works.
Details
60 stickers
Spray Bottles
8 bottles
“This is ______’s land” printout Print 15 copies
Prep Instructions

We recommend students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work alone.

Students will need to cover their workspaces with plastic trash bags or table covers. Alternatively, students can work outside when they are spraying their paper mountains with water.

If students want to keep their models, be sure to give the models time to dry.

Download this Mystery to your device so you can play it offline: