The Water Cycle

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Did you know that the water we use today is the same water found on Earth millions of years ago? The Earth constantly uses and recycles water in a process called the water cycle. In this lesson, learners explore the four phases of the water cycle. In the investigation Rain in a Jar, learners use hot water and ice to create condensation and a tiny cloud. In Making a Terrarium, learners create an ecosystem and water cycle by growing plants in a closed environment. Investigation spans several days.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • glass jar with lid or Pyrex bowl and plate to cover it
  • hot water
  • 2 cups of ice with food coloring
  • can of aerosol spray
  • lid
  • small plastic container
  • clear lid or plastic wrap
  • 1-1& 1/2 cups potting soil
  • lima beans or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 liter bottle of water
  • ruler
  • marker
  • masking tape
  • small to medium size box
  • thermometers (optional)
  • hot water
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Changes of Phase
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Gardening


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, State of New Jersey, 2006

Funding Source:

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001