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I'm teaching the water cycle this week in 6th grade earth science and was curious if any of you had some suggestions for how to push students past the labeling of processes on a diagram towards an understanding of energy transfer with the Sun and gravity as the driving forces of the cycle. Thank you!
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What about if you constructed a closed system using clear plastic, where the sun shines on a pan of water which is viewed as condensation in the morning. This might be something to talk about. I haven't done it, but it seems reasonable for 6th graders to be able to design such a model.
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I am attaching a collection of journal articles about the water cycle. I think you may find something in there to help you. Good luck on your unit.
Do not let the large number concern you, there are 5 items in the collection!!!
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Two resources I used a lot when I taught the water cycle was Windows to the Universe and Project WET. I use Incredible Journey to get students thinking about all the possible places water is found and how long water resides in each reservoir - I have students each write a story about their "journey" as a drop of water and share with others so they see there is no one water cycle.
I have seen the energy system like Robert described done with one of those round fish bowls and plastic wrap on top. It is nice because students at this age (and older!) still have misconceptions about what water vapor is and how condensation works and this shows both. I have always found water cycle to fun to teach and it is so important to an understanding of weather and climate. Good luck!!
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I like the idea of a closed system also. Have you considered having the students build bottle garden terrariums? They are fabulous ways to interconnect the water cycle to the carbon cycle.
There are many lessons available on the web. One site is http://www.seametrics.com/water-lesson-plans. Although the material is posted to a commercial site (Seametric produces metering equipment) there is a great collection of water-related activities, many of which link to NOAA and other research sites. I would also concur with Tina about the Project WET materials; they have many good materials for elementary through middle school.
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You could use a zip lock bag to make this point.
Have students use markers to draw a landscape ( grass, dirt, on bottom, sun and clouds at top)
Have students put water in the bag, about 50 ml and seal it. Have them tape the bags to a window and make observations for a couple of days.
As the sun transfers through the window it will heat up the water in the bag, causing evaporation. When that water hits the cold window it will slow down causing condensation. It will look like it is raining inside the bag.
If you keep the observations going over a couple of days the students should be able to see the pattern and relate that to what is happening in the water cycle.
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I always like bringing in weather to the conversation. I live in Boulder, CO and was able to talk about the recent floods, and where that weather pattern cam from. it's a great way to make the water cycle relevant and the kids like crazy weather events.
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Another idea is to bring in exploration of their local watershed system.
This makes the experience of the water cycle much more "place-based".
This Science & Children article - Science 101: What is a Watershed? may provide some teaching ideas:
This Science & Children article on Watershed Seasons provides hands-on learning ideas:
There are also many other resources in the NSTA Library on Watersheds (for high school level) that could be modified for 6th grade level.
Many students do not realize where their own tap water comes from and how water cycles in their local system.
They also do not grasp how important it is to keep water systems clear of pollutants in order to provide safe drinking water for people and wildlife.
Another great resources is the US EPA Watershed site http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/whatis.cfm
You can search for your watershed region and there are many other teaching resources.
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Thank you everyone for such excellent suggestions!
I ended up adapting a Project Wet and a Project Learning Tree activity that involved students traveling around the room as a drop of water and visiting different stages of the water cycle. While doing this, however, I told students that I wanted them to not only pay attention to ?what? was happening to them, but to ?why? these processes were occurring. The next day we drew a diagram of the water cycle together and during each step I asked students questions about why evaporation, or condensation, or precipitation, or run-off was occurring and students were able to make the connections to solar energy, heat transfer, and gravity that I wanted!
I also liked all of the bottle system activity ideas and perhaps will do this later on to stress the interconnections of the 4 earth systems.
You might want to look over some the online resources from this PRISMS website. I worked as a consultant to this project and they are vetted for use for middle level students
PRISMS is a collection of reviewed phenomena and representations for middle school. Our goal is to help increase the amount of content aligned and pedagogically useful resources available in the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) for middle school teachers and students.
Resources are evaluated for how well they support learning goals in Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and the National Science Education Standards and are grouped in the main menu by categories used in the Science Curriculum Topic Study[/i].
The Earth resources are located here
Here are the areas included in the water cycle
Learning Goal: Water is a solvent. As it passes through the water cycle it dissolves minerals and gases and carries them to the oceans.
Learning Goal: The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere is a significant aspect of the weather patterns on Earth.
Learning Goal: The water falling on land collects in rivers and lakes, soil, and porous layers of rock, and much of it flows back into the oceans.
Learning Goal: Water evaporates from the surface of the earth, rises and cools, condenses into rain or snow, and falls again to the surface.
Learning Goal: Water covers the majority of the Earth's surface.
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
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