Student Lesson 8: THE WATER CYCLE
Recommended for grades 3-6
Read this Story: Water: The Constant Traveler
Have you ever seen the ocean? It’s so big, you can’t think about it with just one thought. It takes lots of thoughts to take it all in.
Sarah and her little brother Mario saw the ocean for the first time today. After looking at it for a long time, Mario said, “Where does all the water come from? It must take a lot to fill it up!”
“It must come from rivers and streams.” answered Sarah.
“And where does the water come from to fill the rivers and streams?” replied Mario. “Oh, from rain!” he said, before Sarah could answer. “And snow too,” Sarah
“O.K. What about the rain and snow? The water to make them falls from the sky. Where does that water come from?”
This was a harder question. They both looked up at the bright, white fluffy clouds and blue sky.
“When it rains,” reasoned Mario,” the rain seems to come from the clouds. But there are clouds now, and it isn’t raining. So, only some clouds have water in them.”
“Rain clouds are darker ~ sort of gray and dark blue,” replied Sarah, still thinking about where the water for rain and snow comes from. “I think the clouds ARE water. Just like fog. And when there’s enough water in the clouds, it rains. Or if it’s cold enough, it snows.”
“Where does the water come from to make clouds?” questioned Mario. Sarah was getting a little tired of answering her brother’s questions, so her answer was a little sharp.
“From the sun!” She really didn’t know the answer either. Do you?
Learning Activity #1: Completing the Water Cycle
You can help Mario and Sarah solve the mystery of the water cycle. Here’s how:
- Open to a blank page in your journal, and at the top write “Lesson 3: The Water Cycle.”
- Print out the drawing below, cut it out and glue or tape it onto the blank page in your journal, or
- In your journal, draw this diagram of the ocean, mountains and sky. Do your best, but you don’t have to be perfect. We want you to learn and have fun!
- Draw arrows from the places the water comes from to the places it goes. Use the story you just read above for clues. Then, try to figure out where the water comes from that makes clouds.
- HINT: Have you ever seen steam rising over a pan of boiling water? The heat from the stove burner heats the water until steam is produced. The water would all be turned into steam if it was heated for a long time. The steam goes into the air. Now, think back about the big ocean. Is anything heating it up? If water gets enough energy, it does a surprising thing. Fill in the blanks below:
In your journal, write the following questions and write your answers:
- Water in the ocean is heated by the _____.
- When the water has taken in enough energy, it will _______ and rise into the _______.
- As it rises, the water cools, condenses, and turns into _______.
- When the clouds hold enough water, it will probably _______ or _______ .
You have drawn what is called a “Water Cycle.”
The water cycle is the way water moves around on our earth. All water, from the ocean, to clouds, to rain and snow, to creeks, streams and rivers, and groundwater (underground water) is connected by the water cycle. The ocean is the giant reservoir for this water cycle.
98 percent of all the water on the earth is in the ocean! What’s left is freshwater — in streams and rivers, and stored in our polar ice caps and glaciers. As polar ice caps and glaciers melt due to climate change, we are losing some of this freshwater storage.
There’s a little more to this water cycle too, because all plants give off water as a gas. This process is called transpiration. This is another way that water finds its way back into the sky to make clouds.
Most kinds of soil can hold water. Water underground is called… groundwater. We tap into this source of water when we dig wells. If you dig a hole deep enough — so that it’s below the groundwater level — and give it a little time, your hole will fill with water up to that groundwater level mark. People have been doing this for thousands of years to find freshwater, often in rather dry places. Believe it or not, groundwater moves underground much as it does in rivers and streams. This underground flow of water eventually makes its way to the surface, and flows to lakes, streams and rivers.