Water Cycle Mania

By Lisa Overkamp and Mary Lou Alfieri

Day 1: The H2O (Water) in Our Lives


The student will gain a basic understanding of the many processes involved in the water cycle. Focusing on each part of the water cycle both individually and as a whole system.

Science Standards:

  1. 8.1.1
  2. 8.1.2
  3. 8.2.1


  • Vocabulary list
  • Notebook
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Transparency or poster depicturing the water cycle
  • Poster board
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Glue


  1. Write a list of Vocabulary words and their definitions on the chalkboard or overhead transparency. Have each student write the list down in their notebook. This will be an excellent resource for the students as they continue through the unit.
    Suggested Vocabulary words for this lesson/unit
    • Evaporation Runoff
    • Condensation Ground Water
    • Water cycle Precipitation
    • Transpiration
    • Infiltration
  2. Discuss the water cycle and it's parts using a poster or overhead transparency. A wonderful diagram of the water cycle can be found on the Water science for schools website http://wwwga.usgs.gov/edu/
  3. The students will get together in groups of three (3) to illustrate and label a model/poster of the Water Cycle.
  4. Gather together as a class and have each group present their poster to each other.

Day 2: And the Water Flows On...

Objectives: To assess the students understanding of the components in the water cycle.

Science Standards:

  1. 8.1.2
  2. 8.2.1
  3. 8.5.1


  • Poster of the Water Cycle ( might want to laminate for future use)
  • Vocabulary words: Evaporation, Condensation, Runoff, Transpiration, Infiltration, Ground Water, Water Fall, River, Stream ( Have these words on laminated strips.)
  • Glass Jar
  • Hot Water
  • Coffee Pot ( optional)
  • Gravel
  • Ice
  • Aluminum Foil


  1. Perform Water Cycle Experiment in group of three or four (3 or 4). 
  2. Play the Water Cycle Game ( A Variation of Pin the tail on the donkey)
    Using an unlabeled picture of the water cycle and the above listed vocabulary words. Have several sets of the vocabulary words cut into strips and laminated. Have the students in teams take turns labeling the parts of the water cycle. Make sure that the students put the vocabulary words in the correct position on the poster. (Teacher Tip: Make 2 sets of the map and vocabulary words so that you can split the class up into teams. Make the "Game" a race to see which team can complete the water cycle correctly first.)


The entire lesson is really an assessment of what the students have "learned" from previous lessons. The teacher should keep track of such items as; Group participation in the activity, working cooperatively with others in the group, following directions, and finally the correct placement f process on the water cycle poster.

Day 3: Phases of Water

Objective: Students will be able to recognize and define the three (3) phases of water.

Science Standards :

  1. 8.5.1
  2. 8.7.2
  3. 8.7.3
  4. 8.1.4

Math Standards:

  1. 8.3.1
  2. 8.5.1
  3. 8.6.3


  • Beaker
  • Source of Heat (Such as a Bunsen Burner)
  • Five (5) Ice cubes
  • Timing device
  • Notebook
  • Pencil

*As a teacher you have the option to have groups of 2 or 3 students perform this experiment in groups.


  1. As an opening to today's activity the teacher will demonstrate the changing of water from one phase to another. (Solid - Liquid - Gas)
  2. As the students observe the transformation of the ice from one phase to another have them jot down some of their findings in a notebook.
  3. Have the students record the time it took for the ice to change from one phase (form) to another.
  4. Gather as a group and discuss the three (3) phases of water

Group Practice/ reinforcement :

The 3 Phases "Cheer"

  • Solid ~ (Molecules are close together) bring outsides of fists together and bump them.
  • Liquid ~ (Flowing hands) like rain falling from the sky
  • Gas ~ (Molecules are far apart) hands far apart over head as if there is a "big" explosion

What would happen if a chemical pollutant entered one of the processes in the water cycle?  Students discuss the problems that may arise due to acid rain.

Student Demo: Acid Rain


  • 3 saucers
  • 3 pennies
  • vinegar
  • teaspoon
  • plastic wrap


  1. Place one penny in each saucer add 2 teaspoons of vinegar to one saucer
  2. In another saucer place 2 teaspoons of water
  3. Leave 3rd penny as the "control"
  4. Cover the saucers with plastic wrap and observe what "happened" the next day. Discuss the findings

DAY 4: pH and Acid Rain

Objective: After completing three activities. Students will understand the effects of acid rain on metal, plants and water.

Science Standards:

  1. 8.1.1
  2. 8.2.1
  3. 8.4.1
  4. 8.4.5
  5. 8.7.3

Math Standards:

  1. 4.5.1
  2. 8.3
  3. 8.5.1

LAB: Observing the effects of Limestone on the Acidity of Water


  • 2/2 cup bowls per group
  • White vinegar crushed limestone plastic wrap
  • pH paper measuring spoons


  1. Label one bowl vinegar
  2. 1 tsp. of vinegar into 2 cups of distilled water one bowl limestone and vinegar
  3. Pour 1/4 cup crushed limestone into one bowl and stir well.
  4. Check the pH
  5. Pour 1 cup of the vinegar and water mixture over the limestone
  6. Remaining water and vinegar into other bowl.
  7. Check pH and record in note book
  8. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap
  9. Everyday for six days stir the contents of the bowls and test the pH


  1. Did the pH of the vinegar/water mixture in the bowl change over the 6 day period?
  2. Does crushed Limestone buffer the acid?
  3. Did the pH of the vinegar/water mixture in the bowl change over the six day period?
  4. Make a bar graph of the results of this observation.
  5. Discuss the demo from day three.
  6. Explain the changes in the three pennies.
  7. What will happen to plants, rocks, and other objects that are exposed to acid rain?

Day 5: The River Puzzle


All people who use rivers, directly or indirectly, affect the river's status. It is necessary for students to have an awareness of who uses the river in their watershed, how they impact the river, and what we must do to keep the rivers healthy. Many rivers throughout the world are threatened due to misuse. We all live downstream and have an obligation to use rivers wisely, protecting the natural resources which we depend upon. Using the River Puzzle will allow time for developing awareness of what is happening up and downstream in our rivers, not just the part we see, and inviting discussion of what we can do to maintain the vitality of our river systems.


......many, varied processes and activities that impact the river ( agriculture, wetlands, industry, cities, tourism, etc.) and what these components of "river life" must do to maintain the river while carrying on the activities. When the groups have their rivers in place, they should glue them onto a strip of paper.  They should be prepared to share their impressions of the demands placed upon rivers and what they learned about the necessity of river users to consider the consequences of their actions downstream.

In closing, students consider what responsibilities they have regarding the fact that we all live downstream, keeping in mind the need for balance between nature and civilization.  The class could also do a river enactment with some students being the banks of the river , some being the river and others being some of the features along the river.  Are there any polluters along the shores? Maybe they will have some pollution to gently toss in the river as it flows.


Draw a river story, write a newspaper article or design a poster to share with others the need to care for what we do on, in and to our rivers.

Extending The Lesson:

  • Students can acquire maps and photos of a river in their watershed to determine what is happening up and downstream in the river.
  • They can interview local water resource people to learn how the river is impacted by local use and what is being done to protect the river.
  • Develop a scrapbook or bulletin board of "water in the news" articles.
  • Participate in a river clean up.
  • Write letters to people or industries who live upstream.

Additional Reading:

  • The Unfolding River, Michael March, Quarto Press, London, 1992.


  • The idea for a river puzzle came from Rich Brouillard, Wisconsin Geographic Alliance, SCI 1991

Water Cycle Experiment


  • See, relate, and understand how water forms change through the processes of evaporation and condensation.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the hydrologic cycle


  • Vocabulary Words Condensation, Evaporation, Water Cycle, Precipitation
  • Bucket
  • Ice ( about 5 lbs depending on class size)
  • A clear medium-sized jar for each group of three or 4 (3 or 4)
  • Aluminum foil that is wide enough to cover the mouth of the jar.
  • Enough gravel to fill the bottom of the jar about 2 inches
  • Very Hot Water ( Teacher responsibility to pour into jars)
  • A container for the teacher to pour the hot water into the jar


  1. Fill the aluminum foil with ice
  2. Fill the bottom of the jar with approximately 1 inch of small gravel
  3. Pour just enough HOT water to cover the gravel in each jar (Teacher performs this step as he/she cautions students about scalding water)
  4. Immediately have each group cover the mouth of their jars with the aluminum foil. The ice should be resting on top of the aluminum foil
  5. Have students observe what they "see" happening in the experiment (Teacher Tip: Have children jot notes as they make observations)
  6. Come back together as a class and discuss what each group saw occurring