by Michelle Crooker

Everyone who homeschools is a little bit different.  We may use the same curriculum or have the same basic schedule as a friend, but each one of us does things a little differently. Summertime, for example, can be viewed in various ways. While some people take off for summer break, others will continue on and take a longer winter break, while still others will take a more relaxed approach to teaching during the summer. No matter how you school (or don’t school) in the summer, here is a way to have a bit of fun while learning at the same time.

It’s time to build a kiddie car wash–a DIY sprinkler made from PVC piping that can be hooked up to your outdoor hose! If done with the kids, you can even call it a unit study. I saw this great idea on Pinterest, then I tweaked it a bit for our purposes.

To start, let’s do some math.

Here is the diagram of the finished car wash. (Note: You will want to keep track of the diagram. If you only have the pieces and not the diagram, it’s not as easy to put together.)

The black parts represent the PVC pipe, and the colored pieces represent the PVC Connectors.

Okay,  let’s start counting. The little ones can help with this.

Question: How many 2½-foot PVC pipe pieces do you see?

Answer: 28 (note: If you got a different answer, go back and count again, because it really is 28.)

Question: How many 3-foot pieces do you see?

Answer: Four.The only pieces that are 3 feet long are the four that are on the top.

Now it’s time for the older ones to jump in.  If you have 28 pieces of 2½-foot lengths, how much PVC piping do you need in all?

Question: What is 28 x 2½?

Next, we need to figure out the amount of piping that we need for the 3-foot lengths.

Question: What is 4 x 3?

Here comes a slightly tricky part, so you may have to continue to move up to the next eldest child for this part.

Question: If PVC piping comes in 10-foot lengths, how many pieces do you have to buy in order to get 82 feet, remembering that they have to be cut into twenty-eight, 2½-foot pieces and four, 3-foot pieces?

Answer: To work this out, start by figuring out the 3-foot pieces.  This will take two pieces of 10-foot length. On one length you will be able to cut three 3-foot lengths and you will have one foot left over, and on the other length you will need to cut only one 3-foot length so you will have six feet leftover.

Now, you need 28 pieces that are 2½  feet in length. First, think about the 6-foot length that was left over.  This can be used for two of the 28 pieces of 2½-foot lengths. So, now you need 26 pieces that are 2½-feet long.  If you figure that 4 goes into 26 six-and-a-half times then you will need seven pieces of 10-foot length to cut the remaining 2½-foot pieces.  Add those two together and you will conclude that you need nine, 10-foot pieces of ¾-inch PVC Piping.

NOTE: You may have noticed a small piece sticking off on the one end, this is to connect to the hose, you will have enough left over to make this piece.I made mine one foot long, as that is what I had left from the 10-foot piece from which I cut the three, 3-foot pieces.

Once you have figured out all of your PVC Piping, you will need to determine the connectors.  The best way to get the kids involved in this is to show them the diagram without the connectors highlighted and color coded.  Here is a copy for you to use:

And here is the parts list. Have the kids use different colors to mark each of the places where the pipes intersect and then have them count to see how many different pieces you need.

You should end up with the following:

• 11 “L” connectors
• 9 “T” connectors
• 4 “+” connectors

The other connector you will need is the green connector. This is a hose adapter; you will have to see what kind of garden hose you have to determine which connector to get to fit it.  If you ask as a local hardware store, they can usually help you out.  Here is what mine looks like:

Now, you have all of your measurements, so you just have to purchase some PVC and cut it to length. Some places will do this for you, but others will not. Your other option is to purchase a PVC pipe cutter.

I purchased my pipe cutter many years ago and it has come in very handy even though I have not used it for any type of plumbing. You can use this step as a measuring lesson. Have the kids measure and mark each pipe the correct length. Be sure to have them measure twice to make sure the pipes will be correct. The pipe cutter is very sharp and requires adult supervision.

Next, it’s time to assemble. If you start with the sides, it goes fairly smooth.

Then, you have one person hold each side and you place the 3-foot lengths at the top.

To drill or not to drill; that is the question. Here, you have to make a decision. If you choose to drill holes for the water to come out of, you will do that at this step.

Eventually, if you want this to work as a sprinkler you will need to do this step. The theory behind skipping it for now is to teach the kids about water pressure.

If you choose to go the water pressure route, make sure the kids are standing back when the hose is connected and the water is turned on. The water pressure will build up and the structure will begin to fail (at times dramatically) at the various joints.

If you choose to drill holes, you will want to drill holes in the 3-foot lengths. I put three or four holes in each length using a power drill. Again, this is something that requires adult supervision.

Once you are finished, hook it up and have some fun cooling off and washing any cars, bikes, scooters or umbrellas that need a rinse.

Have fun learning about water pressure, math, engineering and how to stay cool when the weather gets hot.

Michelle, a Virginia native, currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. Active in Scouts, area homeschool groups, and with her family, she can be found on her blog, “Homeschooler on the Edge,” as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.