Activity Image

Stave Falls Dam virtual reality experience

Explore Stave Falls Dam from the comfort of your classroom.

  • Grade 4
  • Group Work
  • 1 hour


In this activity, students get a 360-degree look at the Stave Falls Dam and Powerhouse. Students also work in groups to sketch each scene they explore.

What you'll need



  1. Show the hydroelectric dam cross-section above and ask students:
    • What do you notice? Are there clues we can use to figure out what the picture is showing? Can you see any pathways?
    • Explain that a hydroelectric dam creates energy transformations. If students are familiar with energy transformations, have them predict where in the image they occur. 

Exploring Stave Falls

  1. Students now get to explore the Stave Falls Dam and Powerhouse from inside the classroom. Depending on your classroom, these 360-degree images can be viewed in a few different ways:  
    • For the most immersive experience, use a mobile device and Virtual Reality viewer, like Google Cardboard
    • Walk through each image with the entire class on your computer and projector
    • Individually or in pairs, have students explore each image using a computer, tablet, or mobile device
  2. Navigate left and right, zoom in and out and look up and down.
    • Ask students to discuss what they are seeing, using the “Notes to help you teach” below as a guide
    • Click on the sound icon in each scene to play the narration (or look at the icon for a few seconds using your VR viewer)
  3. In pairs, ask students to sketch each scene and discuss where energy transformations are occurring.
    • Can they see a pathway for water or a route for electricity?
    • Any other interesting observations?

Class discussion

  1. As a class, have students share their sketches and one interesting thing they noticed.

Additional Information

  • Collect their sketches and assess for the correct labelling and level of detail included. 

Scene highlights

1. Reservoir

  • A dam stops/slows the flow of a river to create a reservoir. Water contains stored energy that is transformed into electricity when the water falls through the dam.
  • It is safe to boat, fish or swim as long as you stay away from the damWater levels change throughout the year.

2. Penstock

  • Water enters the dam and flows downhill through penstocks. These are very large pipes that may go underground.

3. Turbine

  • The turbines inside the powerhouse are turned by the force of falling water. They are very loud and incredibly heavy. This is an energy transformation point where the kinetic energy of falling water is changed into the movement of the turbine. Click on the button, in the image, to see one spinning.

4. Generator

  • The turbine’s drive shaft is connected to the generator which creates electricity as it spins. This is another energy transformation point. The mechanical energy of the turbine moves magnets in between wires, creating electrical energy.
  • The  water continues to flow through the draft tube, out the tail race and continues down the river.

5. Switch Yard

  • Electricity is changed from low to high voltage inside transformers.
  • Insulators (the things that look like springs) prevent the electricity from travelling to the ground.

6. Power Lines

  • Electricity travels along transmission lines to substations and distribution lines across B.C.

7. Substation

  • Electricity travels to communities at lower voltages.
  • Students may recognize substations in their neighbourhoods.

8. School

  • Hydroelectricity comes to your school over power lines. Electricity your school uses is “clean energy” because the water is not polluted as it moves through the turbines or during the energy transformations.

Stave Falls history

The Powerhouse at Stave Falls was an important electrical energy source for B.C. in the 1900s. It is a National Historic Site of Canada where the machinery is still in place along with archival photos, artifacts and interactive displays.

In the early 1900s, people began to think about transformingthe energy of the rushing river into electricity. Construction of a dam at Stave Falls began in 1909, and electricity began flowing from the site to New Westminster and Vancouver in 1912. 

In 1999, a new powerhouse was completed nearby, and the old powerhouse closed in 2000 after supplying energy for over 80 years. It soon re-opened as a visitor centre.

Grade 4 Science - Content

  • Energy has various forms
  • Devices that transform energy
  • Energy is conserved

Grade 4 Science - Curricular competencies

Questioning and predicting
  • Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world
  • Identify some simple environmental implications of their and others’ actions
  • Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways, such as diagrams and simple reports, using digital technologies as appropriate

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