Exploring the Water Cycle

Contributor
NASA
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity , Lecture/Presentation
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Students will observe/investigate the movement of water through the different stages of the water cycle and determine what drives this cycle. Students are asked to think about what precipitation is then watch a video about why the water cycle is important. They observe a simple version of the water cycle and take some notes. Students are asked what stages require solar radiation, which require water to give off heat, and which are driven by the force of gravity. The teacher does several different demonstrations while students fill in a sheet that has the students recording their observations of different processes in the water cycle and how energy is involved. Students build their understanding of the water cycle through the different models that are shown or experienced. The culminating activity has them create their own model of the water cycle from the viewpoint of a water molecule including the processes, the energy involved, and gravity.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the ways water changes its state as it moves through the multiple pathways of the hydrologic cycle. Examples of models can be conceptual or physical.

Assessment Boundary: A quantitative understanding of the latent heats of vaporization and fusion is not assessed.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The plans are very detailed. When the students are asked which processes require solar radiation, which require water to give off heat, and which are driven by the force of gravity they should be asked to explain the thinking behind their choices to gain a better understanding of their thinking. For the demonstrations the teacher’s guide suggests questions to ask students, however some caution should be taken to not just give students the answers. For example, students are asked what phase change is occurring in the water during the evaporation demonstration. The suggested answer is given. Then it asks the teacher to explain that the water molecules are getting more excited and moving faster. Students should be asked to explain rather than the teacher just telling students since ideally phase changes and what happens to molecules should have been studied already. This occurs in several of the demonstrations so guiding questions should be asked that have students coming up with the explanations and including the ideas into their models.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Through the lessons students gain an understanding of the water cycle. Students are asked to take the knowledge gained through text, video, and demonstrations and develop a model (drawing or cartoon) to describe what happens to a water molecule including the role of the sun and gravity. Students should include more than just naming the processes involved. The models should explain what happens to a water molecule as energy is added and taken away.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
A PowerPoint guides the teacher in providing instruction on the water cycle. Through a series of videos, demonstrations and discussions, students build their understanding of how water cycles through the Earth’s systems. Students then pull this information together to create a model (labeled drawing or cartoon) explaining the processes in the water cycle including the role of the sun and gravity. Models of runoff and precipitation are not demonstrated but would be good to add. Precipitation could be modeled when the water is evaporated from the beaker of water a lid of some sort could be held above it at a tilt. Water will condense then drip down the lid which could be collected in another beaker. The drips would represent precipitation. Runoff could be demonstrated during the infiltration demonstration. Water that does not immediately soak in could be poured off, which is runoff. Runoff could also demonstrated by placing water on a surface and tilted. What doesn’t soak in runs off, runoff.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students watch a video that is narrated by the teacher. Students are asked which processes require solar radiation, which require water to give off heat, and which are driven by the force of gravity. The teacher goes through a series of demonstrations where the students observe and describe the changes in matter (usually phase changes) and the transfers of energy involved in the processes being observed in the demonstrations. Students observe models of transpiration, evaporation, condensation, and infiltration. Other processes of precipitation and runoff should also be demonstrated.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This series of lessons involves all 3 dimensions. Students build their understanding of the water cycle including the role of sunlight and gravity in the processes through a series of lessons that include informational text, videos, and demonstrations/activities. The Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and the Cross-Cutting Concepts are all covered in the series of lessons. The summative assessment involves describing the movement of a water drop through the water cycle including the role of the sun and gravity. Several suggestions are given as to the form their model might take.

  • Instructional Supports: The lessons support understanding of phenomena through a variety of methods that engage students. The teacher’s guide is very detailed and the lesson takes students through the 5E cycle of learning. A student capture sheet is provided to use as a student watches the teacher narrated video. Suggestions for questions to ask students are provided throughout the PowerPoint and during the demonstrations providing opportunities for students to give feedback to their peers and to the teacher. Suggestions are also given as to how some of the demonstrations could be done by the students themselves. Students go through a variety of activities in order to build their understanding of the water cycle. There is some limited differentiation suggestions given that relate mostly to their final project, the model of the water cycle. They are given several choices as to how they can create their model to show their understanding of the water cycle processes and the role of the Sun and gravity.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson provides opportunities along the way to assess student understanding. The lesson begins with students thinking about one process in the cycle, precipitation. There is questioning that occurs along the way to elicit student thinking and during the teacher narrated video and demonstrations. There is also a summative assessment. Although questioning is suggested along the way, during the Explore phase the teacher may get an idea of how some students are doing but there is not a clear suggestion to see how individual students are doing. Students do fill out papers as they go along during the teacher narrated video but because this leads to group and class discussions the teacher may not know what a student knows or doesn’t understand until the summative assessment. With the demonstrations students are asked some basic questions but then the teacher is asked to be sure students understand some additional aspects by giving them the information rather the trying to elicit the answers from students. A rubric for the final project is provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The resource has no technological component, although it does use online resources and videos.