Learn with Hanford Mills

Waterwheels & Waterpower Experiment




Learn how waterwheels operate and how they serve as a source of power.


Students will build a waterwheel and use it to conduct a waterwheel experiment.


  • A copy of the Experiment Instruction Sheet for each group
  • A copy of the Thinking About Your Waterwheel for each student
    • One set of materials for each group of students:

    • 2 large paper or disposable plastic plates (plastic is better than paper)
    • Small paper or plastic cups
    • 2 pencils or wooden dowels
    • 1 rubber band
    • 1 round piece of paper
    • Scissors
    • Stapler
    • A water source, such as a faucet or hose


  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Class Time: 40 minutes


  • Divide students into groups of two or three.
  • Give each group a copy of the instruction sheet.
  • Ask the groups to use the instructions to construct their waterwheels.
  • Use the water source to test the waterwheel.
  • Ask each group to work together to answer the questions on the “Thinking About Your Waterwheel” sheets.


  • Ability to follow directions
  • Completed experiment
  • Class participation (speaking and listening)

    NYS Learning Standards:

  • ELA Standard 1
  • Math, Science and Tech. Standard 1
  • Math, Science and Tech. Standard 4

Vocabulary & Spelling Words:

Bucket – n. a vane or blade of a waterwheel, water turbine, or the like.

Flutter Wheel – n. a waterwheel at the bottom of a chute, turned by the falling water.

Overshot Wheel – n. a waterwheel in which the water enters the buckets near the top of the wheel.

Pelton Wheel – n. a high-pressure water turbine in which one or more jets of water are directed against the buckets of the wheel.

Pitchback Wheel – n. a waterwheel in which the water enters the buckets near the middle of the back of the wheel.

Undershot Wheel – . a waterwheel in which the water hits the buckets near the bottom of the wheel.

Water Turbine – n. a horizontal wheel with vanes or blades enclosed in a box or case and driven by the momentum or the force of water.

Waterwheel – – n. a wheel turned by the weight or momentum of water and used to operate machinery.