Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
3-5 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Geology
Environmental Science
Key Concepts
Water cycle, condensation, evaporation, precipitation
Learning Objectives
  • Explain how water is cycled among land, the ocean, and the atmosphere.
  • Describe at least five processes within the water cycle.
  • Understand how the Sun and gravity drive the water cycle.
Credits
Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
This lesson is based on a water cycle activity by the UCAR Center for Science Education.
A transparent box with lid at its side. The box is filled with a layer of sand on the right side and a layer of water on the left side. A rock sits on top of the sand layer. On the lid of the box a small bag filled with ice cubes is shown. Above the box part of a heat lamp is shown.

Overview

Earth is a planet full of water. 70% of its surface is covered with water in oceans, lakes, rivers, and more. Water on our planet can also be found in the atmosphere and underground. In this lesson, students will explore how water is continually cycled among land, the oceans, and the atmosphere. As students build a physical model of the water cycle, they will be able to simulate and observe evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and other water cycle processes in real-time.

Remote learning: This lesson plan can be adapted to work remotely. The Engage section of the lesson can be done over a video call. Students will need to do their water cycle model experiment individually and independently during the Explore section using the Student Worksheet as a guide and can then share their observations with each other, virtually. A set of materials can be prepared in advance or students can use materials found around the house. End the lesson with a discussion over a video call during the Reflect section.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ESS2-4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Developing and Using Models. Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface. Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity.
Energy and Matter. With a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

Materials


Materials needed for the lesson 'Make a Water Cycle'

For educator and each student group of 3–5:

  • Transparent plastic box with transparent lid, such as a plastic storage or shoe box.
  • A rock or stone with a diameter of about 3–4 in.; alternatively, modeling clay can be used to shape a mountain.
  • Natural sand or soil, about 2 cups
  • Water, about 500 mL. Note: You will be able to see evaporation happening more quickly if you use warm or room-temperature water.
  • Heat lamp or a lamp with an incandescent light bulb
  • Ice cubes, 1 cup. It might be good to have extra ice cubes on hand in case they melt too quickly and students need to replace them.
  • Re-sealable plastic bags, snack-size (2)
  • Timer or clock
  • Scissors (for educator only)

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
3-5 students
Active Time
2 hours
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Geology
Environmental Science
Key Concepts
Water cycle, condensation, evaporation, precipitation
Credits
Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
This lesson is based on a water cycle activity by the UCAR Center for Science Education.
Learning Objectives
  • Explain how water is cycled among land, the ocean, and the atmosphere.
  • Describe at least five processes within the water cycle.
  • Understand how the Sun and gravity drive the water cycle.
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