Science Activities for Young Children: Water Cycle Unit
The water cycle is basic information that lends itself to a number of experiments that can be easily accomplished by young children. Your children will feel very important saying words like precipitation, evaporation and condensation. This simple plan will walk you through how to present this information to your children.
Introduction and Overview of the Water Cycle
On the first day provide them with an overview of the water cycle. Begin with a question. "What happens to the rain?" or "Where does the rain go?" From there you can provide them with a simple water cycle diagram to color while you discuss the various parts of the diagram.
- The Kid Zone provides a very simple water cycle image as well as a web page full of information geared toward younger children.
- Enchanted Learning provides a diagram with fill in labels.
Introduce the words precipitation, evaporation and condensation. Explain how the three work together to form a continuous cycle with water constantly moving from the earth to the clouds then falling back to earth. Depending on the weather you can move the precipitation experiment around and it should not affect your child's understanding.
A Silly Water Cycle Song
Precipitation includes all forms of water falling from the sky. Remind your students of this and then explain the type of precipitation you will be looking for dependent on the weather. Ask your child, "Have you ever wonder how much rain falls in a day?" Then explain that your child will get to measure the rain in this experiment.
You will need a clear container, a permanent marker and a ruler. Using the ruler and pen mark your container at each inch mark starting from the bottom of the container. Then choose a more open area and secure your contain so it will not be blown down. Then sit back and wait for the rain.
Hopefully you have previously covered the states of matter, because evaporation will require you to explain gases if you have not already. Start the day by asking, "How does water change to a gas?" Explain that in this experiment the sun will heat the water causing it to evaporate.
For this experiment you will need a clear container, a permanent marker and a ruler. (Use a wide mouthed container for younger children as the water will evaporate faster.) As in the previous experiment use your marker to mark the container every inch starting from the bottom. Place the container in a warm, sunny location. Then check back after a few hours. Consider leaving the container for several days to monitor the rate of evaporation.
Start the discussion with the following question. "We know that water evaporates and rises as steam but what makes it fall back to earth?" You can explain the concept of condensation now or at the conclusion of the experiment.
For this experiment you will need a small cup, tape and a zip locking plastic bag. Place a small amount of water in the cup. Put the cup upright in the bag being careful not to spill. Close the bag and tape it to a sunny window.
Because of your child's previous experiment she will understand that the water should evaporate. However, if your child does not mention evaporation reminder her of the experiment. As your child sees the water beginning to bead on the bag before dropping to the bottom she will see condensation in action. Explain that what is happening is that the steam rises, connects with other steam molecules and cools falling back to the bottom of the bag.
When you have completed your three experiments test your child's understanding by having her create her own water cycle diagram. Pictures and arrows are all that should be necessary to convey the ideas but if your child can spell the words precipitation, evaporation and condensation then by all means let her.
As your child works correct any misconceptions you discover. Affirm her correct answers. And by all means applaud her hard work and understanding. Remember to have fun learning together.