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Kitchen Water Cycle

In this activity students observe water move through the states of matter, evaporating, condensing and precipitating.

Water is constantly in motion. From its liquid form found in places like the ocean, polar ice caps, rivers and lakes, it travels into the air as gaseous water vapour forming clouds, and then it falls back to Earth as precipitation (sleet, snow and rain). This is called the water cycle.

The water cycle:

  • water evaporates and rises up into the atmosphere
  • in the atmosphere, the water cools and condenses to form clouds
  • precipitation falls back to Earth
  • water collects into streams, rivers, lakes, etc. and is led by rivers to the oceans 
  • the cycle starts again

Although this happens on a huge scale, we can recreate the water cycle using items you have in your kitchen. Try this demonstration and then discuss how it illustrates the water cycle.

Objectives

  • Describe and illustrate the water cycle and associate parts of the cycle with weather conditions.

  • Observe and describe changes to the properties of water when it is heated or cooled and associate these changes with weather conditions.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    electric kettle
    1L water
    pie plate or cake tin
    ice
    oven mitts

Key Questions

  • How is this model like the water cycle?
  • What does the water in the kettle represent?
  • What part of this set -up is like the sun?
  • Where are the clouds in the model?
  • How can you make a rain shower develop more quickly?
  • Can you affect the size of the drops that fall from the saucepan? How?
  • Can you create a downpour? How?

What To Do

  1. Boil water in the kettle. The steam (water vapour) coming out of the kettle represents evaporation in action.
  2. Put some cold water and ice cubes into the pie plate.
  3. Put on oven mitts and hold the pie plate just above the steam.
  4. Watch as the cold pie plate causes water vapour to condense and form droplets on the bottom of the plate. Some of the droplets will become large enough to fall—just like rain!

Extensions

  • Make a rain gauge to understand how much rain falls in your community.
  • Discover the amount of rain that falls in a coastal rainforest.
  • Explore conduction, convection and radiation and how temperature influences weather.