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Water Cycle

Compiled By: Mrs. G

These are activities you can use when teaching the water cycle.

water cycle
Posted by: Julianne

You can study it first in a book and follow up with an experiment, or you can start with the experiment and follow up with a book review. I like to start with the experiment because it gets the kids excited about the subject. Here's one I've used for water cycle:

Cut a 2 liter pop bottle in half about 4 inches from the base. Using potting soil and seeds or a small plant, make a terrarium in the bottom portion of the bottle. Water it and squeeze the top portion of the bottle inside the bottom to make a dome. You can also just tape the two halves back together using clear packing tape. Put the terrariums in a light window - not too much sun or you'll bake the plants! Let the kids predict what they think will happen. Have them guess how much they'll have to water, how tall the plants will grow, what will happen to the container, etc. Let them come up with the questions to ask. What you should notice as time goes by is that the inside of the dome gets misty and the plants continue to grow without the use of additional water. As a control, you can leave the lid off one of the planters. Water it as often as you water the terrariums. What do the kids think the difference will be? Watching the condensation/evaporation cycle in this way allows for some real discussion about what is happening and how it works. From there the books will fill in the gaps.

Posted by: JohnV

I haven't specifically taught about the Earth's water, but I do know a few activities that might fit into this category.

For the water cycle, make a water cycle in a box (or bottle). You need a clear container that can be sealed airtight. Put a sample of liquid water in the bottom, seal it and apply cold (ice) to the top. Condensation will form on the inside and collect into drops which will run down to the bottom illustrating evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. I use a clear plastic shoebox from WalMart sealed with cling wrap over the top. I put a jar cover with water in one end of the box and a construction paper tent in the other half. I put ice on the cling wrap over the construction paper. Condensation forms inside the cling wrap and a drop collects which falls onto the construction paper.

Our sixth grade teachers use a set of one-liter (or 20 ounce) bottles to show the categories of water in the world. One bottle has water in it to represent the oceans, one represents the polar ice caps, one is fresh water, etc. You would have to look up the numbers (percentages) and calculate the amount of water to put in each bottle (1 percent of 1000 milliliters for example would be 10 milliliters). It is a revelation for the students when they discover that fresh water that is available for drinking is only a few drops.

Look in the phone book for the local county extension agent or the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the US department of agriculture. Their national website is:

They will have access to teaching materials concerning soil and water conservation. You can download some of them from the website or order them through the mail. I will bet that the local NRCS would be willing to guest lecture for you, also.

Check back here from time to time. As I have a chance, I will search for more stuff.


Water Cycle?
Posted by: Diane

Hi RebeccaH,

If your are doing the water cycle you could put Welcome to Miss ____ Cycle and put drops of water, one for each student. On the first day they could draw the portrait on it. You could also include a diagram of the cycle.
It could read Drop into Miss____ Bucket and have a huge bucket with your name on it. Once again have a drop for each student. You could include clouds or the water could be coming out of a pump or faucet.

If I come up with more I let you know.

fresh water from salt water
Posted by: lil annie

We had an experiment in our science book that the kids found fascinating. You mix salt and water and pour into a bowl of sand. Work a clean cup or other container down into the wet sand and cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band. Place 2-3 marbles on top over the clean container and place the bowl in a very warm place (like the sun). When you check it again in a couple hours, there will be water in the clean cup and it will be fresh water, not salty.

This is a great way to teach about the water cycle.

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Posted by: Julianne

It's very hard for young students to visualize water vapor and the evaporation/condensation cycle. I use a cup of snow that melts, then slowly "disappears". We talk about where it could have gone - the janitor might have drunk it! Jesse might have knocked it over. Finally someone usually suggests that it went into the air. I ask them how we could test that theory. I lead them to the idea that we could have an uncovered cup and a covered cup and see if they both disappear. Of course, the uncovered cup evaporates and the covered cup stays the same. Then we talk about what caused the change. What caused the snow to melt? Would it melt outside? Why or why not? Once they come up with the idea of heat causing the change we make the whole process happen very quickly by melting an ice cube over a flame. The kids can actually see the water turn into water vapor which helps them better understand evaporation.

After doing the snow to water to vapor experiment I ask them to think of a way to reverse the process. Of course they think of refreezing the water to make ice, but how do you condense water vapor into water? The easiest way I've found is to fill a glass jar with cold water and ice. Seal it securely and wipe it dry. Let it stand on a paper towel until you see water condensing on the outside of the jar. How did it get there? If they think it came from inside the jar, redo the experiment using room temperature water in the jar. This time it won't "sweat". So the water on the outside of the jar must have come from the air.

Posted by: Noelle

I make a nice bulliten board for weather that relects the weather cycle. I have a little land and water at the botton with a few flowers on the land... then a large red and white straw that is used by a large sunshine to suck up the to this, I put the sign...evaporation. I then have clouds a little further up and off to the side over the land... a sign... condensation.... and then large rain drops coming out of the clouds and onto the flowers. The flowers are looking up and a sign above says...precipitation. I also use this in the learning process and make it interative. I duplicate the board on a sheet and stundets are required to label the steps in the water cycle. Of course... I provide the words at the top, for spelling reasons. Good luck.

Here it is...
Posted by: LaVerne

...for what it is worth, here is the reader's theater I wrote about the water cycle. It is not perfect, but my fourth graders liked it. I hope I can do this attachment....let me know if it doesn't work.

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No title
Posted by: shy1

when i taught 4th grade, i would have them write a paragraph describing the water cycle, using transition words, too..... then they would draw a small picture of it with labels underneath it

one year we did it during the winter, so we also talked about ice and they made paper snowflakes.....

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Drop Travels the World
Posted by: Angel Star

I think that's the title??? This an awesome picture book that I use every year during our water unit. "Drop", the main character, travels the world, from the sky, to a trough, through a cow's stomach, back to the sky, down as snow, through a river, down a waterfall, into a water treatmetn plant, into a glass of water, out as sweat on a little girl's forehead, etc. etc. etc.

My kids then write their own traveling water drop stories during writing workshop. They turn out really great!!!

I also open the unit with the song and dance that NewTeach does. It's lots of fun!!! From there, I have the kids act out a story that I tell:
"Each of you is a droplet of water.
You are all in a puddle (the kids lay on floor).
The sun is coming out, you are starting to rise (kids start standing up).
The higher you go you are turning into vapor (raise hands over head).
It's getting cold up here (hold arms, say "brrrr").
Get together with the others and form a cloud (get in a tight group).
There's too many of us in the cloud, it's getting very heavy!
You are turning back into drops and falling to the ground. (kids fall)
You are a puddle again.

This is lots of fun. Afterward, I put 8 parts of the water cycle on sentence strips and the kids work in pairs to put them in order.

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Water shed/cycle activity
Posted by: TootSweet

I love this activity and do it yearly...
At each table give them a large piece of white butcher paper (large enough to almost cover the table) Each student should take a turn wading up the paper into a ball. Next, stretch out the paper but leave crumples in it to represent the mountains and valleys. Around the edge, turn up the paper (to keep the water from running off to their tables). Give each student a blue magic marker (NOT the permanant type) and model to them how to use the edge of it to trace the very peaks of the mountains as if it is the snow at the top of the mountains. Give them a few minutes to color the edge of every ridge.Next, with a small cup of water and eyedroppers for everyone, demonstrate how the rain drops on top of the mountains. The water colors from the marker will start spilling down the mountains making streams and lakes. You can have them suck back up the water with the eye dropper like "evaporation".
Use this activity with the water cycle songs the PP gave you and they will learn the water cycle very quickly!

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Beaded Bracelet for Water Cycle
Posted by: lbarrett

Use colored beads and make a bracelet for the different facets of the water cycle:
Sun-yellow bead
Earth/ground water-brown
evaporation--clear bead for gas
condensation--white bead
rain--blue bead (I think)

Kids love to do this and it reminds them of the water cycle components!
Have fun!

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Water Cycle and PhotoStory
Posted by: stlcardinals

I wanted to share a project my 3rd graders will be working on next week. We are learning about the water cycle. Here's my plans:

I am putting the students into small groups. They are going to write a story together about the adventures a drop of water has through the water cycle. I have a few examples to share to get their brains going.

Then each student will illustrate in KidPix one "page" of the story. They will export the picture.

Then we are going to put the pictures into PhotoStory. The kids will type the text in and record their voices reading the text.

I am hoping this turns out a little like a Reading Rainbow segment. We'll see how it goes.

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Water Cycle
Posted by: Racheljz82

I did the water cycle last year with my year 2 students. We watched the DVD of The Magic School Bus. If you can find it, it is great to use. We made steam (using a kettle) and looked at precipitation by putting cold water in a glass and watching the outside of the glass. There are heaps of activities on the net, that's where I got most of my ideas from.

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1st grade teacher
Posted by: reesal

I have used the following with kindergarten and they LOVE it! I make a large poster of the water cycle: ex. pond, grass, sun, sky, fluffy clouds, rain drops (cutesy) - label parts - kids love big words so use them (condensation, precipitation, etc.) Each day we learn about a new word and that part of the cycle. I have simple work sheets that I found on-line that we color each day and then staple together into a booklet that the children can take home. To show the cycle actually working we tie it to learning about plant growth. We plant flower seeds in a large tub, give it some water, slide the tub in a plastic bag, and set it on the windowsill. Every day the kids come running in to see what is happening. They draw pictures of the changes - there will be condensation that forms in the top and on the sides of the plastic (clouds), the clouds are formed when the water evaporates. When the top of the bag is tapped it will 'rain' down on the plants (precipitation). The plants are watered as the water collects on the ground (collection). We start this project in the spring so we can decorate flower pots and send the plants home for Mother's Day. There is also a cute song that ties it all together - I can't remember where I found that but the kids loved it as well. We entered our project in our school science fair last year - along with a tape of the class singing the song. It was adorable. E-mail me if you are interested in 'hearing' more. Have fun! =:) Maria

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Posted by: steach

I just started water today in Science. We did a neat intro activity. I wanted them to understand that about 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water(according to our science book). I made a t chart on the board and labeled it water and land. I then threw an inflated globe beach ball to each child. They looked to see where their thumb landed and we keep tallies on the board every time their thumb was on land or water. After all of my students had a chance to participate, we added up the tallies. We figured out the percent which was about 77%. It promoted a lot of good dicussion and really simplified it for them. Tomorrow we ae doing an inquiry to figure out where all of the water on earth is.

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Quick Evaporation
Posted by: Phyllis

If the classroom has a chalkboard, as opposed to a white board, you can wipe a streak across it with a damp cloth.The wet streak will be readily apparent. Almost immediately it dries because the water evaporated. Wet hands or hair also dry very quickly, helped by body heat. That's evaporation too. You will think of other things you can dampen so that the wetness is visible, but will dry quickly.

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I just finished the water cycle
Posted by: Angie

I teach 2nd and we just finished the water cycle. I have a banana slug string band video and it has a song about the water cycle that has lots of good information in it. The kids loved that. I then had them pretend that they were a water molecule. I told them I was the sun shining down on them and asked them what was going to happen. Someone said that they were going to go up in the sky. I told them that was evaporation. I then told everyone to evaporate. They all stood up and I asked what happened next. They said that we needed to make a cloud. I had them all gather in the middle of the room really close together. No one could remember what that was called, so I had to tell them. Then I told them that they were getting really heavy and it was cold outside. THey said that they would be snow when they fell. I reminded then this was precipitation. I had them precipitate back to their desks. We repeated this a few times using the vocabulary we were learning. They loved this. Another thing I did was just an activity out of our science book. I took warm water and put it in a cup with saran wrap over it. We put it on my overhead for thirty minutes. We moved on to something else and came back to the cup of water later.

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A cute art project...
Posted by: donna

I did a cute art project on the water cycle a few years back.

Using a 12x18 blue construction paper as the background students cut and glued a landform out of green paper on the bottom of the paper going only halfway across. Then they drew ocean waves with chalk on the other side on the bottom. They cut out a sun and glued it (needed for evaporation).

We pulled apart cotton balls to glue for clouds and then drops of glitter glue for rain. We used the chalk to draw evaporation lines going up from the water to the clouds.

Finally they cut out pretyped labels that said 'The Water Cycle", "evaporation", "precipitation" and "condensation" from bright colored copy paper and glued it to the picture.
Another day they wrote about the water cycle process and displayed the writing and picture together.

I don't know how well this translates in print but they really did come out cute. Good luck.

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