The Water Cycle
This unit introduces the hydrosphere as one of the components of the Earth system. It examines the processes and reserviors in the water cycle and the Earth's water budget. See the unit on the Elements of Weather for more about water and humidity in the Earth's atmosphere.

Workshop Presentations

PowerPoint Click to download the MS Powerpoint file (36 Mbytes).

PDF Click to view or download the presentation in PDF (4.1 Mbytes).

HTML Click to view the presentation in html.

Online Lecture Click here to view a streaming lecture about the water cycle. You can navigate from forward and backward in the slides by using the arrow keys on your keyboard. (coming soon)

Classroom Activities

Evaporation and Condensation. In this activity, students examine a model for precipitation on Earth using a simple distallation experiment. In this activity, salty water evaporates from a bowl and the water vapor condenses on plastic wrap and drips (model for precipitation) into a cup. Students examine how water can be moved from one location to another and that evaporation and precipitation on Earth results the tranformation of salt water (ocean water) to fresh water. Note that the linked documents are teacher instructions (not student data sheets). This activity can be done in small groups or as a large class demonstration. This activity may be appropriate for elementary and middle school students. PDF Word Document

Desktop Watershed. In this activity, students create a simple model of a mountainous landscape on the Earth's surface. Using a water spray bottle, they examine how runoff from precipitation moves in the landscape forming streams and lakes. In addition, the activity models the transport of pollutants at the Earth's surface. Teacher Instruction Sheet: PDF

Making Clouds. PDF This simple activity illustrates how condensation to form a cloud or fog can occur in air when it is decompressed. This acivity is from the WOW Project at the Ohio State University.

The Earth's Water Budget. In this paper and pencil activity, students examine Earth's water reservoirs and the processes responsible for moving water from one to another. This activity involves calculating the relative amounts of water in each reservoir and rates of some of the exchange mechanisms. This activity may be more appropriate for high school students and adult learning (teacher professional development).

Student Readings

What are Clouds? This reading from NASA comes at different grade levels and examines the formation of clouds and precipitation and the different types of clouds.
Grades K-4:
Grade 5-8 https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-are-clouds-58.html

Online Video and Media Resources

The Water Cycle Animation. This animation shows how the water cycle throughout a day from sunrise to sunset. This video can be shown in class where students can list all of the ways that water is being transferred between the atmosphere and the Earth and between different portions of the Earth.

Useful Websites

Coming soon.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

Grade 2
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Water is found in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Water exists as solid ice and in liquid form. (2-ESS2-3)

Grade 5
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean. Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground; only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere. (5-ESS2-2)

Middle School
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land. (MS-ESS2-4)
Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity. (MS-ESS2-4)
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns. (MS-ESS2-

Common Scientific Misconceptions

Coming soon.

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