Amazon Water Cycle Role-Play

Teacher and Youth Education, California Academy of Sciences
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Model
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.



In this activity, students are introduced to the environment of the Amazon rainforest. They compare differences between the Amazon and California forests. Next students act out the water cycle within the Amazon rainforest. After performing in their skit, students debrief about how water moves in the water cycle. Through this lesson students will be able to: 1. Describe the various processes of the water cycle. 2.  understand that water changes forms throughout the water cycle, and 3. understand that the water cycle runs continuously with different processes happening at the same time. The time suggested for this activity is 45 minutes.


Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The students read about the Amazon rainforest and compare it to the forests of California. The teacher will introduce or review the water cycle and the following vocabulary words: condensation, precipitation, transpiration, uptake. The modeling activity is a role-play describing the cycling of water in the Amazon River and rainforest. Students will be divided into teams of actors who will play each role. For example, some students will portray the river, the clouds, the Atlantic Ocean and leaves of the Kapok Tree. Students will have time at the beginning to rehearse their parts, sticking specifically to their scripts before the performance begins. The scripts and instructions for the role–play are in the activity.

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
The water cycle is an abstract phenomenon, and some of the stages such as transpiration are unobservable. Role-playing is a great type of model to describe the water cycle to students in an organized and planned manner. The script and the materials in this modeling activity are already developed. For the activity to fully meet the practice, students should draw out and explain what they saw occurring during their skit as it relates to the water cycle. Prior to having students investigate what would happen during the water cycle, teachers could have students use their models to make a prediction of what they think would happen given the scenario.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
In the Amazon Water Cycle role-play, all of the components of the water cycle, except crystallization, were featured in the performance. The land runoff was addressed as the students mimicked “runoff water” from the land to the river. Some of the students played the role of the Atlantic Ocean and the evaporation process placing the cotton ball “raindrops” into the ocean. Transpiration was played by students standing up with their arms outstretched modeling the leaves of the native Kapok Tree. The students who acted as the clouds and air were dropping the cotton ball “precipitation” and then adding those cotton balls to the clouds modeling condensation. Crystallization is not addressed in the activity because the location of the role-play activity takes place in a tropical climate. The conditions needed for crystallization need to be particularly cold or have very low air pressure. Students can research the water cycle in different climates to compare and contrast the differences where crystallization occurs.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The Amazon Water Cycle role-play models a natural system, the water cycle. The activity also describes the various energy processes: condensation, precipitation, transpiration, and evaporation. The students will model the transfer of energy between each step whether it is dropping the cotton ball “raindrops” to represent precipitation or “high-fiving” to represent condensation. To address the energy changes in a more scientifically accurate way would be to have the students model the water cycle in a jar with salt water and light. The students will be able to observe the energy processes in the jar. The habitat featured in the activity was the Amazon Rainforest, a tropical environment, so crystallization would not occur. Students could choose different climate regions to compare and contrast the water cycle.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Grade-appropriate elements of the three dimensions work together to support students in making sense of the water cycle.The lesson includes the science and engineering practice of developing and using models. Students create a model based off of what they experienced during a role-play of the water cycle. During the Amazon Water Cycle role-play, all of the components of the water cycle, except crystallization, were presented (Disciplinary Core Idea). The climate of this activity was a tropical rainforest. The students will model the transfer of energy between each step: condensation, precipitation, transpiration, and evaporation (Crosscutting concept). To fully address the three dimensions, the students could choose different climate regions to compare and contrast the water cycle and they can review that the energy is transferred when water is changed into a solid, liquid or gas, as it does in the cycling of water. Here is an example activity, Shaking Water,

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson engages students in a meaningful scenario of re-enacting the steps to the water cycle. Students are able to represent their water cycle with movement. The purpose of the lesson is to make sense of the water cycle phenomena and that water changes forms and continues to cycle.This activity does not elicit prior knowledge in a methodical way unless this activity is used as a review of the water cycle. In this activity, students make the connection that the water does not always move through the cycle in a specific order. The activity itself has assigned roles, which allows students to experience the water cycle first hand. The three dimensions were addressed as a model of the water cycle demonstrating the energy needed to change water to different forms and each component had a specific part. This lesson has accurate scientific information. No modifications for differentiation were included. Extension activities were included and are related to changes in the water cycle and environment, Including these activities help support three-dimensional learning.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson provides the lesson plan, student roles for the role-play and the information needed for a rainforest biome. Teachers can use this to assess student progress though, no formative assessments, no scoring guides or rubrics are provided. A script was created for students to use during the activity and the students will be interacting with each other and the teacher. The lesson has observable evidence of three-dimensional learning, as the students will learn the content through a role-play activity relating the energy to the changes the water undergoes in each step of the water cycle.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Amazon Water Cycle Role Play is a hands-on, kinesthetic activity. There is no technological interactivity.