Teaching About Watershed Using Sweets

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Teaching About Watershed Using Sweets

This tweet came across our feed and we absolutely had to know more. We’ve seen plenty of demonstrations of natural structures at Maker Faire, but never this combination of demoing the watershed system using cake.

I reached out to the artist, Shana Mashburn and got a bit more information.

My boyfriend, James May, and I made this cake over the course of 6 hours. He has helped me with several of my hairbrained projects and I could not have done this without him. He is a shop technician for the John Deere construction equipment dealership in Oklahoma City. We have even made a table-top scale of a functioning pumpjack to demonstrate to a children’s classroom.

Obviously the cake was made to show how an aquifer works. The tweet says that much. But how did she get the idea to use cake for this? And was it tasty afterward?

I’ve been working as a hydrogeologist for 15+ years, at the U.S. Geological Survey and at the Oklahoma Water Survey (University of Oklahoma). I have 2 kids and have made various cakes for their birthdays. A good friend of mine made a volcano cake and I wondered if a functioning aquifer cake could be made. Yes, we ate the top layers of brownie, pound cake, and rice krispie treats….it was sweet! The rain was almond milk that I colored blue with food coloring (we had some non-dairy folks in the office). The cake was a bit soggy afterward, so it was not very enticing. But, the brownies were not soggy!

Like any project, building something like this surely leaves you with ideas on how you could do it better next time. Shana has some fairly lofty goals.

I would plan more time to do a cake like this again. I might would include a pumping well to show how drawdown in an aquifer could effect water levels in nearby wells. Or I could include a stream and try to show how streams and groundwater are interconnected.


If you’re curious about the layers and how it all went together, Shana was nice enough to share a few pictures of the layering process necessary.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at CalebKraft.com

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


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