Objective: Students will identify the components of the water cycle.

Materials: 1 deck of Water Cycle Cool cards per student, 1 copy of Water Cycle key per group

Background: The Earth has been called the water planet. Between 2/3 and 3/4 of its surface is water. The earth's water can be seen in flowing rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, locked in the northern and southern icecaps, and drifting through the air as clouds. Water that has seeped into the earth's crust (groundwater) is more difficult to see, yet all these forms of water are part of a dynamic interrelated flow that we call the water cycle.

Students tend to think of the water on the planet as being limitless, and yet simple calculations demonstrate the fact that the amount of water is limited. Scientists believe that all the water that we will ever have is on earth right now. Whatever amount is available to humans and wildlife depends largely on how its quality is maintained. Human beings have a responsibility to conserve water, use it wisely, and protect its quality.

On card stock, photocopy and cut one set of the cards for each student in the game. Copy and cut one Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) and one Polluted Surface Water (Penalty Card) per group. Laminate all cards for longevity.

You must have a minimum of 3 students to make a group. After dividing students into groups, thoroughly shuffle the cards and deal to the players. Add one of each of the Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) and the Polluted Surface Water (Penalty Card) to the large deck: only one of each of these cards per deck. Place the Water Cycle Key in the middle of the table.

Each player sorts his/her cards and determines which cards are missing to make a complete water cycle. Two students will have an extra card when the cards are first dealt. The cards needed to make a complete set are: Condensation, Precipitation, Transpiration, Infiltration, Runoff, and Evaporation. The object of the game is to make a complete water cycle.

The first player who is ready to trade game cards says "Go" - Note: This may be called before everyone has completed sorting. This is okay.

After "Go" is called, every player in each group begins trading without waiting for a turn. Players trade cards, face down, one at a time as quickly and as often as needed. Each player shouts the name of the card he/she is trading. Each player trades cards he/she does not want, in hopes that he/she will receive cards to compile a full set.

Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) and Polluted Surface Water (Penalty Card) cards can be traded anytime. The manner in which they can be traded is by calling out a name of another card - for example a student wanting to get rid of the Polluted Surface Water (Penalty Card) can say the card is a Condensation card and pass it to another player.

When a player has a complete water cycle set, he/she shouts "I've got it!" and wins that round. If the winning player holds the Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) as part of the complete set, he/she scores bonus points. The Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) can be used in place of any of the 6 Water Cycle Cool Cards.

If a losing player is holding the Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) or the Polluted Surface Water Card (Penalty Card) when the play ends, he/she is awarded penalty points.

Play ends when someone gets to 500.

Each card in the Water Cycle set is worth 20 points, so the winner gets 120 points with a completed water cycle hand (if player has substituted the Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) as one of the cards in his/her hand, total points in the winning hand would be 150).

The Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) is worth an additional 50 points if held in the winning hand.

The Aquifer Water Storage (Wild Card) is worth -25 points if held in a losing hand.

The Polluted Surface Water (Penalty Card) is worth -75 points if held in a losing hand.

Have students get a bucket or large jar and fill with water. Then on the outside of the jar, have students mark the water level with a piece of tape. Have students check the water levels once a week for 1 month. Mark the water level with a piece of tape each week. Ask the students what could be causing the depletion of the water? Is someone drinking it each evening? Is someone pouring it out? At the end of one month, discuss evaporation and have students give their ideas of how this process could have been altered. Tie in your discussion with the water cycle.

Write each word of the water cycle (condensation, precipitation, etc) on the chalkboard. Hold a contest to see which student can come up with words derived from letters in the water cycle words.

Divide the class into 2 groups. Have each group write a play about the water cycle. Let each group design their own props and costumes and then invite parents to attend the productions.

Vocabulary Glossary:
Condensation: The change of water from a gas to a liquid
Evaporation: The process of converting or changing to a vapor
Infiltration: The gradual downward flow of water from the surface of the earth into the soil
Precipitation: Water droplets or ice particles condensed from atmospheric water vapor and sufficiently massive to fall to the earth's surface, such as rain or snow
Runoff: Water (usually originating as precipitation) that flows across surfaces rather than soaking in
Transpiration: Direct transfer of water from the leaves of living plants or the skins of animals into the atmosphere
Water Cycle: The cycle of the earth's water supply from the atmosphere to the earth and back which includes precipitation, transpiration, evaporation, runoff, infiltration, and storage in water bodies and groundwater
Grade Level:

Subject Areas:
Math, Science, Reading

SD Standards for 4th grade:


4.R.1.1; 4.R.1.2



Prior Preparation: Play "I am a Part of the Water Cycle" game prior to doing this activity.

water cycle, condensation, evaporation, infiltration, precipitation, runoff, transpiration
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