Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Sign up now for tons of free lessons like this one!

Watery Planet    Mystery 3

Mystery 3 image

In this Mystery, students develop a model to explain how water cycles from the Earth’s surface to the atmosphere and back again.

Beginning Exploration (1 of 19)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (2 of 19)

DISCUSS:

Imagine you lived in the same town as Pat’s brother. What could the town do to solve the problem of running out of fresh water? Do you have any ideas?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (3 of 19)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (4 of 19)

THINK & DRAW:

What makes it rain? How does rain get up into clouds?

Draw a picture of your ideas. Label your picture with words describing what you think happens.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (5 of 19)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (6 of 19)

DISCUSS (1 of 2):

Have you ever noticed a situation where water droplets formed on something?

Go to the next slide to see examples we thought about.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (7 of 19)

Example (1 of 3): The bathroom mirror after a shower

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (8 of 19)

Example (2 of 3): The outside of a cold glass

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (9 of 19)

Example (3 of 3): Blades of grass first thing in the morning

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (10 of 19)

DISCUSS (2 of 2):

Where do you think the water droplets came from? Why do you think they formed in these places?

Hint...

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity Prep
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen

Activity Prep

Step 1: Plan your time

For this experiment, you need plastic bottles of hot water (colored red) and plastic bottles of cold water (colored blue). We encourage you to use recycled water bottles when possible.

You’ll need to start preparing for class the night before by refrigerating the cold bottles overnight. You can prepare the hot bottles in a microwave an hour before class.

More tips on preparing the bottles are below.

Step 2: Print out worksheets

Each student needs a copy of the 2-page “Rainmaker Experiments” worksheet .

Step 3: Gather supplies

This activity is designed to use with students working in groups of four. This works well because the activity includes four simple experimental set-ups — and each student in a group can put together one set-up. Students can also work in smaller groups or by themselves, but each group or lone experimenter will need materials to put together four experimental set-ups.

You’ll need:

  • Enough 8-ounce plastic water bottles to give 4 to each group (plus a few extras)
  • Red food coloring (for bottles of hot water)
  • Blue food coloring (for bottles of cold water)
  • A microwave to heat half the water bottles
  • A refrigerator to cool the other half of the water bottles
  • 2 coolers (one for the hot water bottles and one for the cold water bottles)
    • We made our own coolers by lining cardboard boxes with bath towels, but anything you can do to keep the hot water hot and the cold water cold will work fine.

Each group (or lone experimenter if someone is working alone) will also need:

  • 4 Dixie cups
  • 4 large clear plastic cups
    • These must be clear; frosted cups won’t work. Cup must be tall enough to extend at least an inch above the top of the Dixie cup. If the clear cups are too short, there’ll be nowhere for the condensation to collect.
  • 4 heavy-duty paper plates
    • The heavy paper plates, like Chinet brand, work well. The thick paper acts as insulation below each hot or cold set-up.
  • Paper towels to clean up any spills
  • Optional: Cafeteria-type trays to hold the materials for each group
  • Optional: Oven mitts (for you to handle the hot water bottles as they come out of the microwave)

Step 4: Prepare for class

To prepare the cold water bottles:

  • Count out 2 bottles per group (plus a few extras).
  • Open each bottle, drip in a few drops of blue food coloring, and close them back up.
  • Place them in the refrigerator to cool them down.
    • If you’re in a rush, you can chill them faster in the freezer. You don’t want them to freeze, just be really cold.

To prepare the hot water bottles:

  • Count out 2 bottles per group (plus a few extras).
  • Open each bottle and drip in a few drops of red food coloring.
  • Leave the bottles open. (This is important! If you don’t, they may burst.)
  • In our microwave, we heat 6 to 8 bottles at a time. We heat on high for one minute, check the temperature, then repeat until water is hot. You will have to determine the best power setting, time, and number of bottles for your microwave. We suggest erring on the side of less power and time, to avoid overheating the bottles.
  • When the water is hot, carefully remove the bottles and screw the tops back on.

Store hot and cold bottles in separate coolers until class. In our experience, they’ll stay warm or cool for at least an hour in a cooler.

Have fun!

Quick tip: Save time by also gathering the supplies for the next Mystery! Show more
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Make It Rain
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (11 of 19)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity and exploration you just completed.
Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Activity: My Life as a Drip

Can you imagine what your life would be like as a drop of water? With the help of this creative writing activity from Kinetic City , you certainly can!

Students roll a die to choose a first sentence — then roll again to choose an ending.

  • Do you start underground and end up in an elementary school drinking fountain?
  • Do you begin in a puddle and end up in an iceberg?

So many possibilities and never the same story twice.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Video

“The Great Aqua Adventure” (4:28) reviews the basics of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

This is one of many videos from Crash Course Kids, a YouTube channel focusing on 5th-grade science topics. Crash Course Kids offers friendly hosted videos on many different subjects. Subscribe to free biweekly shows, or check out their extensive library of videos, all aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Readings

These readings are free with registration on Newsela. Readings can be adjusted for reading level. A writing prompt and a quiz questions is available for each reading.

  • What's going on in that cloud floating high in the sky? Find out in “What are clouds?” (Grade 5; also in Spanish)

  • Clouds are made of water, but sometimes that water doesn't fall as rain. Scientists have figured out how make clouds drop their water. Discover how in this reading.(Grade 5)

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Online Resource: The Water Cycle

This interactive diagram from the U.S. Geological Survey lets you explore the parts of the water cycle online. Choose from three levels: Beginning, Intermediate or Advanced.

The same information is available as a poster that’s free to download and print. Choose from 24 different languages.

A simpler version of the poster is available as a water-cycle placemat. (A print-friendly link is at the bottom of the page.)

Whatever form you choose, these are great for reinforcing or reviewing concepts presented in this Mystery.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Discuss

Water is always evaporating, making clouds, then raining down to fill lakes and oceans. That means the earth’s water gets used over and over again. Think about what that means for the water you drink.

  • What does that mean for people today? Are we using the same water that dinosaurs used?

  • What does that mean for people in the future? Will they use the same water you’re using?

  • Are there things we should all do to save and protect water for the future?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen