"The Water Cycle"

AUTHOR: Vilia Natchez, Our Lady of the Snows School, Reno, Nevada

GRADE LEVEL: Appropriate for grades 2-4

OVERVIEW: The water cycle explains the sun heating the earth's surface water so that it evaporates. This vapor gathers in clouds which rise to the cold air. When those clouds become too heavy to float, they release their moisture as precipitation. The precipitation collects in lakes or oceans after siphoning through soil or running down rivers. It then evaporates and repeats the cycle once again.


Students will be able to:

  1. Explain how the water cycle recycles the earth's water supply.
  2. Make use of the knowledge of landforms learned in social studies.
  3. Form a hypothesis on how/why the water cycle works.
  4. Use language arts skills of writing and drawing to explain how the cycle works.


small margarine bowl
large, clear plastic container.or an old aquarium
plastic wrap
plastic trees, animals, boat, etc. are optional
tape or large elastic band
bag of ice (optional)
heat lamp (optional)


  1. Arrange the soil in the container to make mountains, plateaus, hills, etc., and a lake basin. Place the margarine bowl in the lake basin. Fill the bowl with water. The plastic toys may be added to appeal to the children's imaginations. Cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and secure it by means of tape or the band.
  2. Discuss what is expected to happen in the container.
  3. Depending on the amount of sun, the project may take 1- 3 days. In order to speed the process, a bag of ice may be placed on one end of the covered container, while a heat lamp is focused on the other.
  4. Watch for condensation on the plastic "sky" of the container. When enough moisture collects, it will fall onto the landforms as precipitation.
  5. Compare the hypothesis to actual results by discussion.
  6. Encourage the students to draw the water cycle using arrows to show the flow.
  7. Ask the students to write a paragraph explaining their picture. A word bank might be used if needed. Possible words for the bank are: condenses (cools), vapor, clouds, evaporate, precipitation (rain/snow), heavy, soil, oceans, lakes. Try to elicit these words from the students.


Thanks, Vilia, for such a great lesson plan.

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