3 Ways to Teach the Water Cycle for Kids

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How can you make teaching the water cycle for kids really fun? Use a song, a simple explanation of the water cycle, and make a fun project that showcases their learning.

This is the stuff kids love and remember.  When we make it fun, even difficult topics become easier.

Science projects are a great way to foster conversations about difficult topics, get kids actively engaged and target Tier 3 academic vocabulary words.

a fun water cycle for kids project
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This awesome science poster is what my class worked on this fall while doing our Eric Carle author/illustrator study.

His book, Little Cloud, is a terrific segway into learning about the simplest stages of the water cycle: evaporation, condensation and precipitation.


What is the Water Cycle?

Here's a simple explanation of the water cycle.

The water cycle is technically called the "hydrologic cycle." Hydrology is the study of water in the atmosphere, on the Earth's surface and underground.

There is no new water being made, and this fascinates kids. Once they realize that, they cannot believe that the water they drank this morning might have been used by the dinosaurs, come from a river in China, or had a shark swimming through it hundreds of years ago.

At the youngest grades, we don't introduce the fourth part of the water cycle: transpiration (when water comes out of plant leaves). But it can be easily added to the project pictured above and described below.

Before reading anything though, I ask a basic question: What Makes Rain? Go on, ask your class. The answers are often hilarious. Here are some I have received:

  • The sun gets too hot so it busts open
  • The earth gets too hot and it needs nutrients so the clouds give it to them
  • Mother Nature
  • God wants it to
  • It's like going to the bathroom - the clouds get too full and they have to pee
  • I don't know, but my dog smells when he goes out in the rain

Save this anchor chart to refer back to at the end of your lessons. This provides a sense of closure and allows the students to revisit and revise their ideas and/or misconceptions.


A Simple Book to Teach the Water Cycle

To introduce the water cycle to my primary science students, I always start out with an interactive read-aloud using the story Little Cloud.

In this story, Little Cloud drifts away from the other clouds and changes his shape, as clouds do.

This is also a great opportunity to introduce the term "cumulus cloud" to the students. We then head outside with our science journals to diagram and label what they see in the sky.  In the next few weeks we begin our unit on different types of clouds.

Later in the book, Little Cloud travels over the land and sea and you can introduce the concepts of evaporation and water vapor.

At the end of the story, Little Cloud joins the other clouds and they make it rain, which lends itself to a discussion of cumulonimbus, different types of stratus clouds, condensation and precipitation.

At this point we learn the hand motions for the water cycle:

  • waving fingers go up above our heads for evaporation
  • clasp hands together for condensation
  • and waving fingers go down for precipitation

The Water Cycle for Kids Song

After our read aloud, we all learn the Water Cycle Song. This is the song I use from ScienceExplosion.com - the kids absolutely love it!


                              


Water Cycle Diagram for Kids

project directions for a water cycle diagram project


This project is all about bringing the water cycle down to a child's level. It is tied into our author study of Eric Carle.

We talk about how he develops his illustrations and the techniques that he uses, paying particular attention to how he layers color.

Click the project to find out how to make it.




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