Institute of Human Origins - March 2024
 

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Earth and Space Science

Water Cycle

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Kathryn Fleegal Kathryn Fleegal 1980 Points

I'm teaching the water cycle this week in 6th grade earth science and was curious if any of you had some suggestions for how to push students past the labeling of processes on a diagram towards an understanding of energy transfer with the Sun and gravity as the driving forces of the cycle. Thank you!

Robert Anderson Robert Anderson 2300 Points

What about if you constructed a closed system using clear plastic, where the sun shines on a pan of water which is viewed as condensation in the morning. This might be something to talk about. I haven't done it, but it seems reasonable for 6th graders to be able to design such a model.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Kathyrn, I am attaching a collection of journal articles about the water cycle. I think you may find something in there to help you. Good luck on your unit. Do not let the large number concern you, there are 5 items in the collection!!!

Water Cycle Teaching Ideas Collection (5 items)
Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

I like the idea of a closed system also. Have you considered having the students build bottle garden terrariums? They are fabulous ways to interconnect the water cycle to the carbon cycle.

There are many lessons available on the web. One site is http://www.seametrics.com/water-lesson-plans. Although the material is posted to a commercial site (Seametric produces metering equipment) there is a great collection of water-related activities, many of which link to NOAA and other research sites. I would also concur with Tina about the Project WET materials; they have many good materials for elementary through middle school.

Linda Smith Linda Smith 4595 Points

You could use a zip lock bag to make this point. Have students use markers to draw a landscape ( grass, dirt, on bottom, sun and clouds at top) Have students put water in the bag, about 50 ml and seal it. Have them tape the bags to a window and make observations for a couple of days. As the sun transfers through the window it will heat up the water in the bag, causing evaporation. When that water hits the cold window it will slow down causing condensation. It will look like it is raining inside the bag. If you keep the observations going over a couple of days the students should be able to see the pattern and relate that to what is happening in the water cycle. Linda

Linda Smith Linda Smith 4595 Points

You could use a zip lock bag to make this point. Have students use markers to draw a landscape ( grass, dirt, on bottom, sun and clouds at top) Have students put water in the bag, about 50 ml and seal it. Have them tape the bags to a window and make observations for a couple of days. As the sun transfers through the window it will heat up the water in the bag, causing evaporation. When that water hits the cold window it will slow down causing condensation. It will look like it is raining inside the bag. If you keep the observations going over a couple of days the students should be able to see the pattern and relate that to what is happening in the water cycle. Linda

Yelena Hughes Yelena Brachman 995 Points

I always like bringing in weather to the conversation. I live in Boulder, CO and was able to talk about the recent floods, and where that weather pattern cam from. it's a great way to make the water cycle relevant and the kids like crazy weather events. Yelena

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28240 Points

Another idea is to bring in exploration of their local watershed system.
This makes the experience of the water cycle much more 'place-based'.

This Science & Children article - Science 101: What is a Watershed? may provide some teaching ideas:

http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc03_040_07_17

This Science & Children article on Watershed Seasons provides hands-on learning ideas:

http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc07_044_09_20

There are also many other resources in the NSTA Library on Watersheds (for high school level) that could be modified for 6th grade level.

Many students do not realize where their own tap water comes from and how water cycles in their local system.

They also do not grasp how important it is to keep water systems clear of pollutants in order to provide safe drinking water for people and wildlife.

Another great resources is the US EPA Watershed site http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/whatis.cfm

You can search for your watershed region and there are many other teaching resources.

Dorothy

Kathryn Fleegal Kathryn Fleegal 1980 Points

Thank you everyone for such excellent suggestions! I ended up adapting a Project Wet and a Project Learning Tree activity that involved students traveling around the room as a drop of water and visiting different stages of the water cycle. While doing this, however, I told students that I wanted them to not only pay attention to ?what? was happening to them, but to ?why? these processes were occurring. The next day we drew a diagram of the water cycle together and during each step I asked students questions about why evaporation, or condensation, or precipitation, or run-off was occurring and students were able to make the connections to solar energy, heat transfer, and gravity that I wanted! I also liked all of the bottle system activity ideas and perhaps will do this later on to stress the interconnections of the 4 earth systems.

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