Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Miracles: A Multigenerational Program on Living in Awe and Wonder

Activity 4: The Ripple Effect

Part of Miracles

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Large, shallow bowl or basin
  • Cooking oil
  • Rubber duck or other small, floating object
  • A few stones of different sizes
  • Newspaper or plastic, and towels

Preparation for Activity

  • Cover the floor or a work table with newspaper or plastic. Set down the bowl or basin and fill it with water.

Description of Activity

In this session, we look at forces that can help communities, or even whole societies, change. In our story, we saw the dramatic effect an individual’s action can have to inspire and help people and the world around them. In science, we can call this phenomenon “the ripple effect”.

Participants have most likely experienced ripples in water. This activity will focus their scientific observation and help them draw reasonable inferences about factors that affect the formation and behavior of ripples. Then, you will lead the group to apply the physical ripple effect as a metaphor for the impact one person or action can make on the behavior of a community.

Gather the group around the bowl. Gently tap the side of the basin with your hand. Invite the group to notice how ripples form and move.

Next, invite a few volunteers, one at a time, to toss a stone of a different size into the water. Lead the group to observe the pattern of ripples each stone creates.

Now place the rubber duck into the water and again tap the side of the basin. Ask the group:

  • What happens to the duck?

Now, remove the duck and pour some oil into the basin. Again, tap the side of the basin. Ask:

  • What happens to the ripples?

Place the duck onto the oily surface and again tap the side of the basin:

  • What happens to the duck now?

Now, post a sheet of newsprint and ask participants for their observations while you record them. Then ask:

  • What are some factors that affect the size, shape, and timing of waves?
  • What happens when there is a barrier on top of the water (the duck or the oil)?


Now that you have observed “the ripple effect,” and formed ideas about it, what ways do you think the ripple effect is relevant to social transformation?

Invite reflection with these questions:

  • Is the effect of the efforts of one person the same as the combined effects of multiple people working toward a common goal?
  • What happens when individuals or groups encounter opposition to their ideas?

Including All Participants

Make sure the bowl is placed where all can see. A work table is probably more accessible than the floor for this activity.