Follow the Water Cycle
Conduct a fun class experiment to teach students about evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Students learn about the water cycle as they test their hypotheses and observe an experiment.
- Observe the stages in the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
- Hypothesize the source of rain.
- Recall where we find forms of water on Earth.
- An electric frying pan or hot plate with shallow pan
- A small sauce pan
- 24 ice-cubes
- Water Idea Web from Lesson One
- Blank paper
- Crayons and pencils
- A book about rain. I like to use Come On, Rain
Set Up and Prepare
- Chart "The Little Water Vapor Song" from Day 2, Step 6.
- Set electric frying pan in a safe place for observation, out of student reach.
Step 1: Gather students together and read a story that features rain, such as Come On, Rain.
Step 2: Distribute paper and ask students to draw and write about why it rains and where rain originates.
Step 3: Gather students together to share their hypotheses.
Step 1: Ask students to recall how water changes. Add to the water idea web from Lesson One. Write, "What is the water cycle?" in a circle from the word "water." From those circles write, "evaporation, condensation, and precipitation." Explain what each word means. Show students the electric frying pan and that it will get hot when you plug it in.
Step 2: Keep students at a safe distance from the skillet. Place a dozen pieces of ice in the skillet and ask students where they see water in this form: snow, ice cycles, icebergs, glaciers, frozen ponds, etc. Chart these from the circle marked, "solid" on the idea web from Lesson Two and ask them to name the form of water.
Step 3: Turn on the skillet. Ask students to tell you what's happening to the ice. What form of water is the solid changing to when it melts? Ask students to recall where we find water in a liquid form: streams, rivers, ponds, oceans, lakes, pools, etc. Chart these from the circle marked, "liquid" on the idea web from Lesson Two.
Step 4: As the liquid heats up, it will change to steam or vapor and rise. Ask students what they notice. Ask them if they recall what the water vapor is called and where else they see gas: steam from cup of hot liquid, a whistling kettle, fog, etc. Chart these from the circle marked, "gas" on the idea web from Lesson Two. Tell them that this is evaporation. Fill the saucepan with ice and hold it over the frying pan. Tell students that the pan represents a cloud. As the water in the air rises, it condenses to make clouds.
Step 5: Ask students to watch for a while longer and ask them what they notice. Condensation is occurring and water vapor changes to water droplets or liquid. When the liquid is too heavy, it falls, just like in a cloud. We call that precipitation. Ask the students to tell you where they see precipitation: snow, rain, snowflakes, hail, etc. Add these from the circle marked either, "solid or liquid" on the idea web from Lesson Two.
Step 6: Teach the students "The Little Water Vapor" song to the tune of "The Eensy Weensy Spider."
The little water vapor evaporated high, (raise hands)
Into a cloud, it condensed by and by. (pat hands, making a fluffy cloud)
When the cloud was full, it precipitated rain, (wiggle fingers, cascading down)
Down fell the water, to start the cycle again! (make circular motion with hand)
Step 1: Remind students of the rain experiment you did together. Sing "The Little Water Vapor Song" again. Distribute paper and ask students to draw and write about why it rains and where it comes from.
Step 2: Gather students together to share their stories. Ask them to compare their hypothesis with their second illustration.
Supporting All Learners
Encourage students who are ready to use letters and words. Label pictures for those students who need it.
Have each student demonstrate the water cycle by building his/her own terrarium. Each student brings a plastic bottle with a cap. Put about an inch of soil in the bottom of the plastic container and plant a small plant. Give it a good soaking of water. Water will evaporate up and be trapped in the bottle and "rain" down.
Ask students to be a condensation detective and record where condensation occurs at home: on cold glasses of liquid, on leaves, or the car windows in the morning, etc.
- Pre- and post-writing/drawing samples
- Did the students understand elements of the water cycle?
- Did the students participate in the song?
- Were the students able to recall the forms of water?
- How might I do this lesson differently next time?
Evaluate the pre-and post-writing/drawing samples to see if students gained knowledge about the water cycle.