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Water Cycle Circuit

In this game, students act out the water cycle by becoming water molecules and simulating evaporation, condensation and precipitation

Earth is unique in that all three forms of water (liquid, solid and gas) exist here naturally. 

Heating from the sun helps evaporate water from oceans and lakes as a source for clouds and precipitation, it is also pulled from the ground and evaporates off leaves of plants as they grow (transpiration). The sun-powered circulations of evaporation, condensation and precipitation move Earth's water from the oceans to the atmosphere to land and back. This is known as 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

Because water constantly moves through this cycle, the amount of water on our planet now is the same as the amount that existed during the time of the dinosaurs. Water does not get “used up” and disappear; it is continuously replenished through 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:
    sidewalk chalk OR 10–12 hula hoops
    8 or so traffic cones
    4 pinnies (optional)

Key Questions

  • Why do the game rules require 6 water droplets to collect in a cloud before they can move to the next station?
  • What part of the water cycle does this represent?
  • Where do the water droplets spend most of their time?
  • Why is the water we use now the same water that has been on Earth since it was formed?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Set up 4 “stations” for game play. Draw, or use hula hoops or other gym equipment to create:
  • The ocean: an area large enough for all students
  • Rainclouds: several medium-size circles large enough to hold six students
  • Mountains: several triangles or one large designated area
  • River: draw or place the traffic cones in a meandering line between the mountains and the ocean.

Game 

  1. Use pinnies to identify 3-4 students as seedlings (S). Seedlings start along the river, crouched in a ball with their elbows sticking out.
  2. All other students will represent molecules of water and start at the ocean.
  3. The game begins with water molecules in the ocean “evaporating” by running to the rainclouds.
  4. When six water molecules meet inside the clouds, they can link arms to “condense” into a raindrop and “precipitate” by moving as a group to the mountains station. (Groups of fewer than six students must wait in the clouds for more “water molecules” to join them and become a raindrop.)
  5. From the mountains, the water molecules can travel individually to flow down the river to the ocean, tagging the seedlings’ elbows along the way. Once in the ocean, the cycle begins anew.
  6. Each seedling must be tagged 20 times in order to sprout into a full-grown tree, whereupon the “tree” student stands up. The game ends either when all seedlings have sprouted or after a certain time limit is reached.

Teacher Tip: To simplify the game for younger grades, play the game with only 2 stations: the ocean and the rain clouds. The seedlings can only be tagged by droplets moving from the clouds to the ocean.

Extensions

  • Where else could water collect besides mountains and rivers?
  • Create a more complex game using other water collection points such as lakes, glaciers and even animals.