The Water Cycle
Studying the water cycle can result in a fascinating environmental exploration.
By Jacqueline Dwyer
Discovering the Water Cycle
Water - 97% of it is in the world’s oceans. The remainder can be found within the Earth itself, and on the surface in rivers, lakes, and streams. Water goes up. It comes down. Then the cycle repeats. This seemed to be a simple enough topic to teach for someone like me who does not have a science background.
To my surprise, we covered everything the state standards required for my son’s grade in an hour. This even included a simple experiment. My son was clearly dissatisfied with such a cursory glance. So, we spent the next few weeks searching the Internet for resources and traveling to far-off libraries in search of elusive titles. Before I knew it, my simple lesson plan had morphed into a divergent, tangential web of ocean currents, bathyscaphes, and deep sea vents. Our study led us to visit museums and even to joining a local wetland preservation group.
Preserving Horseshoe Crabs
The preservation group is an organization concerned about coastal habitats. My son was particularly interested in the declining population of the horseshoe crab. By talking to environmentalists, he learned that the horseshoe crab plays a key role in the food web. This is because millions of migrating shorebirds depend on horseshoe crab eggs for nourishment, and without these eggs, they would be too weak to complete their journey. Since he was a part of the group, my son had the honor, on a balmy night in early June, of watching the horseshoe crabs briefly come ashore to mate, before returning into the ocean. He was so moved by the plight of these gentle living fossils, that he wrote a letter to the State Legislature urging them to impose a moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting in our local waters. Together, we organized a class with our homeschool group where we made and sold t-shirts and totes. All of the money we collected was donated to the preservation society and the Nature Conservancy.
By the end of two exhausting, but exhilarating months, we’d still only skimmed the surface in regard to studying water. Yet my son knew more about water that I had ever thought possible. And, I knew more about my son than I ever thought possible. Our water cycle study was a rude, but glorious, awakening for me. I will never again underestimate what a child can do in his areas of interest. I realized that when we approach vast topics in the future, I want to be a member of the crew, and let my child skipper the boat. I am thankful that when broad topics are being studied, as homeschoolers, we have the luxury of time on our side. If you want to get started on learning about the water cycle, you may want to use the lessons below to get started.
Water Cycle Lessons:
Students build a water cycle model. They monitor it over a two-week period, noting how water changes state as it moves through the cycle.
This lesson lets children imagine what it would be like to travel alongside a drop of water, as it makes its way through the water cycle.
Young students review basic terms regarding the water cycle, and demonstrate their knowledge both verbally and graphically.
Older students will define key terms and label diagrams associated with the water cycle.