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Emergency flood

Teach primary children about flooding. 

Pick and choose from a selection of activities that will help children understand what flood water is and the dangers associated with it. 

Children will learn how to stay safe around flood water. They'll get to practise a basic first aid skill so they can help others as well. 

Age range: 6 - 9 years old

Learning objectives

By the end of these activities children will understand:

  • what flood water is
  • the dangers associated with flood water 
  • how to stay safe during a flood
  • how to help someone who has been injured in flood water and is bleeding heavily from a wound.

Starter: what is flood water? 

Ask children for words that they think of when they hear “flood water”. Make a list of their responses on paper, flipchart or whiteboard [at this stage just allow the list to develop – don’t correct ideas as they are given – you can use the list to compare with  ‘correct’ responses later on].

2. As they begin to run out of ideas, ask…“How is flood water different to other types of water?”…to see if this helps them to find a few more.

Knowledge building: photo of a flooded street 

A flooded house© Info
3. Display the photo of a flooded street. Ask children “which of the words from our list would work for this photograph?”

4. Display and use the following word/phrase list below to check against the ideas you already have and to build new knowledge, words and phrases. 

[Take time to identify where they had similar words (for example ‘scary’ or ‘bad’ are similar to ‘dangerous’ and ‘risky’). Also take time to help them understand new words such as ‘debris’ or ‘sewage’]

Words and phrases that describe flood water

dangerous risky hidden objects cold 
dirty deep fast moving debris 
hazardous polluted diseases sewage

[Extension: Find and print images of flooding using an image search on the Internet. Try and use examples from a balance of countries as well as from the UK – flooding is a risk in many countries. 

In small groups, give children an image and ask them to use the words and phrases they have learned to make labels showing the dangers of flood water in their photograph.]

Understanding risk: water tray experiment

5. Begin by asking the children “who likes to play in water?”  Ask them for examples of when they play in water.  Examples you could give to fill in ideas are:

  • Splash in a puddle
  • Paddle on a beach or in a shallow clear stream
  • Paddling pool in the garden
  • Swimming pool
  • In the bath

6. Explain to the children that flood water is very different and is not safe to play in. They have already learnt some of the reasons why from the earlier activities. One important reason flood water is not safe to play in is because it is often moving or flowing. 

7. Explain that you will show them this risk through an experiment [this could be done as whole class, or in small groups dependent on equipment and time]

Here are the instructions for the experiment:

a. Find a tray large enough to hold water about 5cm deep.

b. Fill a large jug or watering can with enough water to fill the tray to the 5cm depth.

c. Part 1: Fill the tray with water up to the 5cm depth. Stand a figure or block to represent a person in the water towards one end of the tray. Once balanced on the base of the tray (in the water) let go of the figure/block. Ask the children to note what happens [the figure/block should stand in the water].

d. Part 2: Empty the water from the tray back into the jug or watering can. Stand the same figure or block back in the tray, this time without any water. Now pour water from the jug/watering can into the tray from the opposite end to the figure/block (so that it flows towards the figure/block). Ask the children to note what happens this time [the figure/block should fall over in the flow of water].

Ask the children to explain the results of the experiment and make sure they have understood what it is showing. The key learning is that:

  • even a small amount of running water can be dangerous;
  • it is not safe to play in floodwater.

Taking action: staying safe around flood water

To help children remember and reflect on their learning do one of the following three activities:

Role Play – Put children into pairs – child A and child B. 

Child A comes across some flood water and wants to play in it with child B. 

Child B knows about the dangers of flood water and must explain to child A why it is not safe to play in the flood water. 

A few of the pairs could perform their role play for group comment/reflection.

Poster – Give children materials to make a poster that explains the dangers of playing in flood water. They can use drawings and words and some of the children could present their posters for group comment/reflection.

Poem/song – Remind children of the words and phrases that they have learned to describe flood water and the risks. Using some of these words, make a short poem or song to help people learn about the dangers of playing in flood water.

Storytelling/literacy exercise 

9. This short downloadable story is a good accompaniment to the activities/learning above. It could be used during the learning to provide a context for the learning, or at the end of the activities to help consolidate learning. 

Download the story and images. Pin the images up around the room. Read the story aloud to children and pause as indicated to enable them to engage in the story and to explore/develop their own learning.

Extension ideas: 

a. The story could be used for an assembly with a group of children who have been learning about flooding taking on the roles of the characters in the story and acting it out. The narrator could stop at the pauses in the story and engage with ideas from the audience before moving the story on.

b. The story lends itself to being cut up into parts for children to be given and piece together in order. As well as building engagement in the story and learning, this develops their understanding of story structure.  Ask them to identify the opening, build-up, dilemma/problem, resolution and ending stages of the story.


This resource was written by Rob Bowden and Rosie Wilson of Lifeworlds Learning and published in September 2014.


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