Clean Water, Experiment, Games

Archimedes’ Screw: How Are Fields Irrigated?

A device called the Archimedes’ screw is used for irrigation purposes. Some believe that the mechanism was invented by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, hence the name; yet, this invention had already been used in ancient Babylon. Archimedes’ screw is a simple machine used to pump water into the irrigation ditches. It has been particularly important in times of drought when the water levels in rivers fell and the water in irrigation ditches dug alongside river banks did not reach crop fields. Archimedes’ screw, however, is used not only to irrigate. In the Netherlands it was used to drain polders. It is therefore an extremely useful and reliable device.

Create a model of the Archimedes’ screw together with your child and use this opportunity to talk about Archimedes, the importance of water in agriculture, and about the fact that freshwater represents as little as 2.5% of entire water resources on our planet, out of which most is trapped in glaciers. Tell your child that water isn’t distributed on Earth evenly: there are regions which are very dry and we need to look after water like after a treasure without which life on Earth is doomed to extinction.

śruba Archimedesa materiały


  • cardboard box
  • sand / stones / soil
  • cardboard tube
  • glue
  • rigid A4 paper
  • scissors
  • paper knife
  • glass ball
  • cup (paper or a regular tea cup)


As usual, we’ve prepared a brief instruction of how to execute the project. Here are some quick tips before you start your adventure:

  1. To make the screw more firm and to prevent it from wobbling, fill it with sand / gravel or similar stuff to make it heavier.
  2. To make the screw threads more durable and let balls roll on them freely, glue several strips of paper together (using cardboard will be best) and then stick them on the tube’s surface.
  3. Archimedes’ screw is an engineering project appropriate for kids aged 6+. Younger ones will most likely be discouraged by the long waiting period necessary before they can use it.
  4. We haven’t recorded the process of decorating the screw in our video, but I think it will be equally useful without any decorations. We ourselves have such a strong inclination towards all kinds of decorations, feeling that decorating is an intrinsic part of any project, be it arts & crafts, engineering, or any other project whatsoever.

I hope you will have fun and the kids will spend the day learning some useful information in other areas, such as history and physics.