FL5 Teacher Page: Water Cycle

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Florida Science Standards

SC.5.E.7.1 Create a model to explain the parts of the water cycle. Water can be a gas, a liquid, or a solid and can go back and forth from one state to another.
SC.5.E.7.2 Recognize that the ocean is an integral part of the water cycle and is connected to all of Earth's water reservoirs via evaporation and precipitation processes.

Connecting to Other Standards

It is easiest to present the water cycle after you have covered SC.5.P.8.1 (States of matter) and SC.5.P.9.1 (Effect of temperature on changes). If you have not covered these concepts yet, you can use the water cycle to introduce them.

Key Concepts:

  • Water can be found naturally as a solid (ice), liquid (water), or a gas (water vapor), and changes frequently from one state to another.
  • Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation are important parts of the water cycle.
  • Most of the water on Earth is very old, and has been through the water cycle many times.

Misconception Alert:

Evaporation: Be sure to read What Really Happens with Evaporation? This can help you explain evaporation and condensation while avoiding several common misconceptions.

Covering the Basics:

To give your students a basic understanding of this topic, do the following.

  1. As an introduction, either show your students the Wonderful Water video, or watch it and convey the information to your students. This explains why water is such a strange chemical, and supports SC.5.E.7.1 and SC.5.E.7.2
  2. Show your students the Water Cycle video. This supports SC.5.E.7.1 and SC.5.E.7.2
  3. Do the Model of the Water Cycle activity either as a demonstration or as a hands-on activity. This fulfills SC.5.E.7.1 and is a good time to reinforce SC.4.N.3.1 by discussing how the model differs from the real world, how it could be altered to test different things, and why scientists use models.

    Click here for materials list


    • a gallon sized zip lock type plastic bag
    • water
    • a desk lamp or direct sunlight
    • 2 small bowls (3-4 inches across)
    • ice
    • salt

    If students will be tasting the water, be sure that the plastic bag is new (not reused) and that the bowls are clean.

  4. Add more depth to the topic by using the following:
    • Cloud Formation, part 1: Understanding condensation.
    • Cloud Formation, part 2: Understanding convection.
    • Building a Rain Gauge: Measuring precipitation. This can be a very dramatic activity.
    • Cloud Types: Using the clouds to predict the weather.
    • Heartless Plants: Help students understand the role that plants and transpiration play in the water cycle.
    • Making a Solar Still: A very useful, alternative model for looking at the water cycle.

      Click here for materials list


      • a hole dug in the ground or a large, wide bowl
      • a small glass or jar, shorter than the bowl
      • clear, plastic wrap
      • salt
      • water
      • a coin
      • tape

Nature of Science Potential

  • Do the Building a Rain Gauge activity.
    Part 1 can be done as an experiment to determine which container makes the most accurate gauge. Part 2 can be done to collect data, and chart how much water falls on your school yard for each rain. Use multiple rain gauges in different locations, and discuss why there are variations.
  • Experiment: Evaporation
    Have a class discussion of what variables affect the rate of evaporation of water. (surface area, water temperature, air temperature, humidity). Have students design an experiment to determine how surface area affects evaporation rate. Put the same amount of water into different containers (tall and thin, short and wide, etc.). Weigh the containers and water. The next day, weigh each again to see how much water has evaporated. Calculate the surface area of each container and chart the results. Using square or rectangular containers will make it easier for students to calculate the surface area.

    To add more, have several groups of students perform the same experiment. Compare their results, and discuss why they are not exactly the same. What variables (sunlight, moving air from air conditioning vents, etc.) could have caused the differences?

Fun Facts

Supporting Standards from Previous Grades

SC.2.P.8.4 Observe and describe water in its solid, liquid, and gaseous states.
SC.2.E.7.3 Investigate, observe and describe how water left in an open container disappears (evaporates), but water in a closed container does not disappear (evaporate).
SC.3.P.9.1 Describe the changes water undergoes when it changes state through heating and cooling by using familiar scientific terms such as melting, freezing, boiling, evaporation, and condensation.
SC.4.P.8.2 Identify properties and common uses of water in each of its states.

If you need help with science questions, ways to explain or demonstrate concepts, or have a suggestion for an activity for the water cycle, please email me.

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