What is an Impervious Surface? Summer 2020 Week 1 Content

Welcome to The Project Outside Summer 2020 week one! This week focuses on impervious surfaces. An impervious surface is a surface where water can’t drain through it, but runs off instead. Examples are concerete, asphalt, buildings, rocks, etc.

Did you know there are impervious surfaces in nature too? We think about them as bad surfaces, which isn’t entirely true. Without impervious surfaces likes rocks or clay, water would run into the rivers and the land would hold too much water. When there are too many impervious (otherwise known as hard) surfaces, especially in a city, water doesn’t soak into the ground and it runs into the river, carrying all the pollution straight to the watersources.

When water runs through grass, wetlands, or microbes in dirt, many pollutants are removed from the water in nature’s natural cleaning process. Even city pollutants are removed (not all of them though!). This helps improve water quality, making the rivers cleaner.

Beyond water quality, too many hard or impervious surfaces can increase the temperature of a city. The sun generally reflects off of impervious surfaces, heating up the air more than normal. For a city like Denver, this means that the air temperature in the city could be up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the surrounding areas.

This week, the curriculum is broken into age ranges. Each activity is below.

Littest kids: Impervious Surfaces Childrens Books List

These books all touch on impervious surfaces and the importance of nature in cities, as well as being aware of development and the transition from a natural to built up world. All these books have amazing stories, and are books I grew up reading and loving. They are all available on Amazon.

Middle Ages: Coloring Pages!

This spread of three printable coloring pages follows the transition from a city scene to the country, watching as life takes over a barren place. Color these pages as a family and use them as conversation to talk about where they would rather live! This is a perfect activity for elementary school students.

Older Kids: Solar Oven S’mores!

This experiment helps demonstrate how the sun reflects off of shiny or impervious surfaces to heat up the air. In this experiment, kids build a solar oven and then use it to cook s’mores or another food of their choice. When completing the experiment, parents can discuss how it would be impossible to cook these s’mores on grass or non-impervious surface, demonstrating how only hard/impervious surfaces lead to a rise in temperatures.

Weekly Challenge: Become aware of impervious surfaces in our daily life

In this weekly challenge perfect for the entire family, we take a trip around our neighborhood or local parks to explore the impervious surfaces we encounter every day. Do you drive on asphalt to get to school? Do you play at a grassy park? By observing the impervious surfaces in our daily lives, it is easier to conceptualize the fact that 50% of Denver is made up of impervious surfaces (which is WAY too high of a percentage!). We can also begin to think about ways to increase the plants and green surfaces in the city!

Coming later this week: More research on impervious surfaces and another activity for older kids, comprobable to Middle School science curriculum.

Stay tuned for the next week of Project Outside Summer 2020 Curriculum! Share your findings, coloring pages, and ideas with #projectoutsidesummer2020 on Instagram or tag @the.project.outside to let us know what you have been doing!

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