Water Cycle Lesson Plan

The Water Cycle Overview

The Water Cycle can be a difficult topic to teach preschool children since it relies more on abstract ideas than on concrete evidence.  We know that water does evaporate and condense but it is harder to give solid examples.

Even still, preschool children can grasp the complex nature of the water cycle with relative ease if it is demonstrated in small steps.

Lesson Objective:

Children will begin to understand the continuous water cycle and it will lead to understanding how our planet provides us with a never ending source of energy.

The Water Cycle is a good stepping stone for children and will prepare them for more abstract science lessons.

Learn More About Water Cycle From These Books

Water Cycle Discusion

This preschool lesson plan on the water cycles starts with a group discussion.In a group setting read the book A Drop of Water or The Drop Goes Plop.

Did you know that the Earth is one of the leading sources of reduce, reuse and recycle and it has been doing so for millions of years?

You may find it hard to believe but water that falls from the sky has actually been around since before the time of the dinosaurs and it is just caught up in the water cycle where it falls to the earth as rain, collects into the ocean and turns into vapors when the sun heats the water. This cycle continues over and over and the earth reuses the same water in a never ending cycle.

Pretty amazing, right? But the real question is, how does the earth keep reusing the same water and what is the water cycle?

The water cycle is a continuous cycle that has four stages. These are Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, and Collection. There is no start to the cycle or end and really, we only break it up into these simple steps to better understand how the earth continually reuses its own energy.

So what exactly are Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation and Collection.

The water cycle, as it is often explained, begins with evaporation.

Have you ever been in the bathroom while mom or dad has had a shower? You know the white smoke, also known as steam, that fills the bathroom? That is one of the simplest ways to explain evaporation. Steam in the bathroom is caused when the water is heated enough for some of it to escape in the air. It is no longer gas but as the air cools, after you turn off the shower, the water begins to turn back into droplets of water.

In the water cycle, the sun, not the hot water, works as the evaporator. The sun heats up the water in oceans, lakes and rivers so that the surface water is warmed enough for it to become steam. Usually, we do not see this steam rising off the water but if the day is cooler you can see it in fog or mist. The heated water that has become a gas starts to rise up into the sky.

At this point, condensation begins and just like the steam in the bathroom, the heated gas begins to cool down the higher up in the sky that it goes. Once it is high enough, the gas turns into droplets of water and clouds are made.

The clouds start off small but as more evaporated water moves up into the cloud and cools down into droplets the cloud gets bigger and heavier.

Once the cloud is very big and very heavy, and it can’t hold any more condensed water, precipitation starts. Precipitation is another word for rain, snow, sleet or hail; any type of water that falls from the sky.

The precipitation falls to the ground and is used to feed plants and other creatures on earth. The water that falls on the ground sinks into the dirt and collects in the ground or reaches underground rivers and streams. Water on the ground can also collect in large puddles, which can sometimes flow back into rivers, lakes and streams.

Precipitation that falls into lakes, rivers and oceans have a much shorter journey when it comes to being collected but regardless of where the water falls, collection is an important part of the water cycle. After collection, evaporation begins again and the water cycle continues on.

It is important to understand that the water cycle continues on. There is no break from one stage to the next and while it is raining over one lake, the sun is warming another lake and the water is evaporating.

Charting Evaporation

This is a simple experiment that can be done two different ways; the first by allowing evaporation by the sun or the second by boiling water to cause evaporation. Both can be done with preschoolers but it should be done carefully if you are doing the latter.

Vocabulary

• Water cycle
• Precipitation
• Vapor
• Steam
• Condensation
• Evaporation
• Water
• Collection
• Hydrologic Cycle
• Gas
• Liquid
• Droplets

Materials:

• A medium sized container (clear if possible)
• water
• A ruler
• Pen

Procedure:

1. Fill up a container with water and mark on the outside of the container where the water level is.
2. Place it in the sun (uncovered).
3. Check on it each day and mark where the new water level is.
4. Discuss why the water is going down.

Questions to ask:

What do you think will happen to the water?
Why did the water go down?
Do you think the sun did something to it?
Where do you think the water went?
How long do you think it will take the water to disappear completely?

Extension:

As I mentioned earlier, you can make this a fast experiment by boiling the water in a pot. This makes the experiment less hands on for the children but can speed it up significantly for more instant results. First take the water and mark on the clear container where it is. Then pour it into a pot and boil for 5 minutes without a lid. Allow it to cool slightly (or completely if you have time) and pour it back into the container. Mark where the new water level is and repeat.

Books that will help your child learn about water:

The Snowflake : A Water Cycle Story

A Drop of Water

All the Water in the World

The Magic School Bus Wet All Over: A Book About The Water Cycle

Raindrop Experiment

This is a very simple experiment that will show children how precipitation is made. It is a second experiment in our Water Cycle lesson plan and it helps break up the water cycle into smaller parts for the children to understand better.

Vocabulary

• Water cycle
• Precipitation
• vapor
• Steam
• Condensation
• Evaporation
• Water
• Collection
• Hydrologic Cycle
• Gas
• Liquid
• Droplets

Materials:

• Mirror with a handle (2 if possible)
• Freezer
• Plug in Kettle
• Oven Mitt
• Water
• Construction paper

Procedure:

1. Freeze the mirror before you begin the experiment.
2. When you bring out the mirror, allow the children to touch it briefly to show them that it is cold. If they over handle it, have the second mirror available so you are able to go on with the experiment without stopping.
3. Plug in the kettle and talk about safety as you wait for it to heat up.
4. Discuss the steam that is coming out of the kettle and how it is evaporated water.
5. Hold the mirror in the steam with it above the construction paper.
6. Water will begin to bead on the mirror and should fall onto the construction paper.
7. Discuss what you are seeing.

Questions to ask:

What do you think will happen to the cold mirror?
What do you think that white stuff is coming out of the kettle?
Do you think the steam is hot or cold?
What do you think will happen when the hot steam hits the cold mirror?
What is falling onto the construction paper?
How do you think rain (precipitation) is made?

Things to do:

Document predictions that the children make and the final outcome of the experiment.

Have the children document the experiment themselves with drawings or models.

Note: This is the second experiment in the Water Cycle series.

Learn More About Raindrops

The Water Cycle in a Bowl

This experiment will show children a more concrete example of a water cycle. It can take some time so it is best to do this experiment after you have had experiments with faster outcomes or while you are doing other experiments.

Vocabulary:

• Water cycle
• Condensation
• Evaporation
• Water
• Collection
• Hydrologic Cycle
• Gas
• Liquid
• Droplets

Materials:

• Large bowl (clear works best so children can look in without tiping anything)
• Small margarine or yogurt container
• Two small stones
• Plastic wrap
• Large elastic band
• Water

Procedure:

1. Introduce the materials to the children and ask them to problem solve how these materials will help learn about the Water Cycle.
2. With the children helping, place the small container into the large bowl and weight it with one of the stones.
3. Pour in water gently into the big bowl without getting any in the container. Water that is room temperature works fine and you can have the children touch the water to set the stage for their observations.
4. Cover the large bowl with plastic wrap and secure with the elastic band.
5. Place the second stone in the middle of the plastic wrap just over top of the small container.
6. Place the bowl in a sunny spot for a few days, checking every day.

Questions to ask:

What do you think will happen to the water?
How long do you think it will take for the water to evaporate?
Do you think evaporation needs hot or cold water?
What is the sun doing to the water?
Where do you think the droplets of water will go?
How much water do you think will collect in the small container?

Things to do:

It is important to give children something to do while this experiment is going on over a few days. Start by having the children document the beginning, middle and end of the experiment with drawings.

Keep a chart up to mark down what predictions the children make about the experiment and also on what the outcome was.

Extension:

You can expand this experiment by providing several different bowls of water cycles. Place one bowl in a shady spot where it will not get any sun and exam both bowls to see if there are any differences in the amount of collection and condensation.

You could also place food coloring into the water to find out if it affects the water cycle. Is the vapor colored? Are the droplets of water colored? Is the water that is collected colored? If not, why isn’t it?

Note: This is the last experiment in the Water Cycle series.

Learn More About Water Cycle