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Water Cycle Relay

Objective: Students will review the important steps in the water cycle.

Grade Level: 3-6

Groupings: Two teams

Materials: Two trays of ice cubes; two spoons; tape; two sets of vocabulary words on slips of paper (see step #3 ); large drawing of The Hydrologic Cycle; bucket.

Time Allotment: 20 minutes


1.  Divide the class into two teams. Show them The Hydrologic Cycle, pointing out the missing vocabulary words that describe the steps in the cycle. Explain that they will fill in these blanks with the missing words in the course of a water cycle relay race.

2.   Pass out a spoon and a tray of ice cubes to each group. As part of the relay, each group will place an ice cube on the spoon and pass both from the back of the line to the front of the line. Let the groups practice passing the spoon with the ice cube on it.

3.  Next, give each group a set of the following nine vocabulary words written on slips of paper: evaporation, condensation, cloud, precipitation, river, infiltration, ground water, evapotranspiration, and hydrologic cycle. Have the groups attach a piece of tape to each slip of paper. Ask the groups to discuss the words, reviewing their meanings and where they fit in the water cycle exhibit.

4.  Explain that you will read a matching water cycle riddle for each of the vocabulary words. The students must quietly decide among their group which word best fits the riddle. The last person in line tapes the slip of paper with the matching word to the bottom of the spoon and places the ice cube in the spoon. He or she then passes the entire spoon to the next person and so on down the line. The person at the head of the line walks quickly to the exhibit at the front of the room with the spoon and ice cube, places the ice cube in a bucket and tapes the word to the correct spot on the cycle, then, returns to the end of the line and the race begins again with another riddle.

5.   Before beginning the race, review the rules for the relay. No one may touch the ice cube after it has been placed on the spoon until it reaches the head of the line. That means no holding it as it is transferred up the line or while carrying it to the exhibit. If it falls off, it starts from the back of the line again. If the students are having trouble, let them start the ice cube where it fell off.

students running the relay race 6.  Invite the students to help decide how points should be awarded and record these figures on the blackboard. Ask them to decide the number of points to be given to the team that finishes first, the team that selects the correct vocabulary word and the correct placement of the word in The Hydrologic Cycle.

7.   Let the races begin! The winner is the team with the most points.


a.   Have the students create a mini water cycle in a plastic sandwich bag. Have them work in small groups. Ask them to place a mark on a small plastic cup one inch up from the bottom. Demonstrate how to hold the plastic bag at an angle so that one corner of the opening edge is at the top and tape a cup to the middle of the inside of the bag. Then have the groups tape their cups to the inside of their bags. Have them fill the cup with water to the line. Ask them to seal the bag carefully and securely tape the closed bag to a sunny window. What do they think will happen to the water in the cup over time? What will the inside of the bag look like? Ask them to record their observations at various time intervals for the next several days. Have them measure the amount of water inside the cup and bag at the end of the experiment. Did it change?

b.  Have your students make a terrarium to view the water cycle. Have the students bring in large size plastic soda bottles with black bases. The black bottom is removed and used as the base of the terrerium. The clear top quarter of each bottle is then cut off and inverted, fitting tightly into the planter base. Divide the class into pairs. Give each pair a base and clear top. Have them line the base with small pebbles and add potting soil until it is 3/4 full. Ask them to collect moss and some small plants to plant in the soil. Have them water the soil lightly and securely put on the clear top of the terrarium. Put the terrariums on a sunny windowsill and observe.

c.   As a homework assignment, send the students on a scavenger hunt. Have them look for and record water in its different forms in and around their homes.

Recycled Water: If water droplets could talk to one another, they might be heard to say, "Hey, haven't I seen you somewhere before?" The drops that drip out of your faucet today, could have fallen as rain during the time of the dinosaurs, been frozen in the glaciers during the ice age or risen as steam from your great-great Grandmother's tea kettle. Water just keeps going around and around. The amount on the Earth today is the same amount that has always been here. It is the ultimate in recycling. So next time you pour yourself a glass of water, think of where it might have been and where it might be going.

Below the surface of the Earth
In between particles of dirt
That's where this water is found
Saturating everything deep underground

In between and all around
Through the soil without a sound
Water seeping down down down
Slowly moving underground

Heat from the sun makes water rise
Up as vapor to the skies

Cumulus, stratus, cirrus too,
Water vapor visible in skies of blue

Down is the direction this water falls
As crystals, drips or even balls

Once a gas but then it's changed
Into a liquid to be seen again

From the pores of plants
water vapor escapes
Into the air without a trace

I start as a trickle and then I grow
Picking up speed as down I go
Over the surface from land to the sea
Obeying the laws of gravity

Water going round and round
Changing form but not amount
The Hydrologic Cycle

The Hydrologic Cycle

* This material has been used with permission from Shelburne Farms, Copyright © 1995.

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