The Water Cycle

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SWBAT identify the main parts of the water cycle through a mini investigation.

Big Idea

Using online media and demonstrations, students use their information of phase changes to identify the parts of the water cycle.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: For this lesson, you will need multiple computers or devices with internet access. This lesson is intended as introduction to the water cycle. While it seems rather elementary, not all of my students have not all been exposed to it. For this reason, I start off with a basic lesson that either helps those who have learned it, review it, or provides an easy entry point, for those who have not.

This lesson works to address NGSS MS-ESS2-1, as students are working to understand how water is cycled throughout our planet. 

To begin this lesson, students will quietly reflect on the following prompt, individually and respond in their student notes sheet

Where does rain come from and how is it made?

I think rain comes from…

I think rain is made when…

After 2-3 minutes, I will ask students to share their ideas and I write them on a large sheet of paper to display in the classroom.


10 minutes

Next, students spend time in small groups (3-4 students) and analyze a diagram of the water cycle. They will be guided by the questions in the notes sheet.  They should be familiar with the phase changes of matter in order to complete this activity. The notes sheet reads as follows: 

Using the water cycle diagram, answer the questions below.

  1. What is evaporation?

  2. What would be the source of heat in nature?

  3. What is condensation?

  4. What is precipitation?

  5. What causes evaporation to occur again?


Water Cycle Introduction


10 minutes

Next, I show the students a video in order for them to see the water cycle in action.  I preview the video by reading the questions in the explain section of the notes sheet aloud with them: 

I use a BrainPop Jr. Water Cycle* video, which requires an account, and students view it to answer the questions below.

  1. Water vapor is what form of matter?
  1. How are clouds formed?
  1. Rain, snow, sleet and hail are called what?
  1. In your own words, what is the water cycle?

 As a class, we will go over the responses in order to be on the same page up to this point. 

* This video can easily be replaced with another resource that covers:

- How water moves.

- What powers this water cycle.

- Why scientists study it.

o How surface water gets into the atmosphere and how water vapor condenses to form clouds. 
o How long has the water cycle been going on, and how much time does water spend in each part of it? 
o Groundwater--what it is and why we depend so much on it. 

Some possibilities (at a variety of levels) for you to check out:

Scholastic Study Jams The Water Cycle

NBC/NSF The Water Cycle -- Sustainability: Water

Funza Academy Water Cycle Animation (British English) 

NASA Water Cycle

Bill Nye Water Cycle


20 minutes

Students need a laptop or device with internet access to complete this section of the lesson. In small groups, they work to complete the chart below by following the prompts on the site. Or, you can have students complete it individually, if you have a class set of laptops: 

Students use the an EPA Water Cycle demonstration to help them to complete the chart.


5 minutes

For the last task, students will label the water cycle image below on their notes sheet: 

Label the parts of the water cycle below, using words from this list- evaporation, condensation, precipitation, transpiration.