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This is a unit of scripted lessons explaining the water cycle. The lesson content and learning styles are differentiated to address the students’ varied intelligences, preferred learning styles, readiness and interests.

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This is a unit of scripted lessons explaining the water cycle. The lesson content and learning styles are differentiated to address the students’ varied intelligences, preferred learning styles, readiness and interests.

Notations refer to the learning theories of Howard Gardner (1993) and Robert Sternberg (1985) as well as other theorists. Regarding Sternberg’s theories of interpersonal and intrapersonal learning styles, I have melded them with other theorists’ categories and refer to the styles as “small group” and solitary. I also include auditory for lessons in which students may learn from hearing.

These suggested lessons are also intended to provide limited stimuli environments as well as opportunities for full interaction with other students.

For Teachers: An Introduction to a Differentiated Water Cycle Learning Unit by Jean L. Hill, FSC Graduate student

Hey, A Dinosaur Sloshed

  • in My Bathwater!
  • A Differentiated Water Cycle Lesson by Jean L. Hill, FSC graduate student

Do You Really Want to Know Where That Water Was Before It Was Poured Into Your Bathtub or Your Water Glass?

did a hippopotamus gulp my ice water has he peed in my pool
Did a hippopotamus gulp my ice water? Has he “peed” in my pool?
  • Oh my, did he?
  • Yes.
  • A hippopotamus slurped your drinking water while it was flowing in a river before you were born.
  • Many animals, including a hippopotamus ,urinated in water that was in oceans, lakes and rivers and now fills pools where children play!
  • A dinosaur even sloshed in your bathwater many more years ago when the water in your bathtub was in a lake.
  • How can that be?
  • You tell me!

Visual, auditory, problem-solving intelligence (p.i.)

think about this question is there really any brand new water
Think about this question. Is there really any brand new water?
  • Let’s look at a diagram of a water cycle, which is also called the hydrological cycle. Where does water come from and where does it go in this picture?
  • Take your time.
  • Does the cycle show new water being made? Does it show water being thrown away?

Part to whole, whole to part, visual, contextual intelligence (c.i.) p.i.

yes plants drink water
Yes, plants drink water.
  • Roots of a plant soak up water from the ground. The water travels from the roots into the stem of the plant, which acts like a straw. As soon as a drop of water is pulled up the stem, the rest follow. Water molecules stick together.
  • What if a plant has no roots? Do you think water would travel up the stem of a plant to a flower at the top of the stem?
  • Make a prediction or theory, and we’ll do an experiment to prove or disprove your theory.
  • Don’t worry whether your prediction is “correct” or not. Scientists make predictions every day. They prove some and disprove others. It is all part of the scientific process.

c.i., p.i., auditory, logical mathematic (l.m.)

  • For your experiment you will need:
  • 1. A white carnation with a stem long enough to be put into a vase or a glass.
  • 2. Red, blue or green liquid food coloring.
  • 3. A vase or a drinking glass
  • 4. Water
  • 5. Scissors
  • 6. A science journal or piece of paper to make a data sheet.
  • Write on the data sheet:
  • 1. What you used in your experiment.
  • 2. How you conducted your experiment (what you did)
  • 3. What you predicted would happen
  • 4. What happened.
  • 5. What you learned.
can a flower with no roots drink water
Can a flower with no roots drink water?
  • Now that you are ready, you need two more things as a student scientist: Time, as much as 24 hours) and patience.
  • Step 1: Pour water into the vase or glass and add 10 to 20 drops of food coloring.
  • Step 2: Snip the bottom off the stem at an angle. (Why do you think we do that?)
  • Step 3. Place the carnation in the glass or vase of dyed water.
  • Step 4: Record (write down) what the flower looks like and the color of the water, and what time it is now.
  • Step 5: Observe the flower when you can. Every hour or two is good for a while. Record the time and your observations.
  • Step 6: When you either have seen something happen, or have waited 24 hours and have seen nothing happen, record your results. Write what you have learned.
  • kinesthetic

Some conclusions you may have drawn from your experiment.

Plants can drink water even if they do not have roots. They pull water up through their stems. The water travels to their leaves and flowers. Some of the water becomes part of the plant.

Next, the plants transpire (sweat) the excess water into the air.

3. The water in the air evaporates.

You could say that plants borrow water.

They use it and give it back.

Visual, auditory


Did you see or feel any water on the flower’s petals or leaves? Do you think some of it evaporated?

  • Some of the water rises into the sky and bumps into colder air. When the warm air and cold air meet, the water vapor condenses, or becomes a light, misty-looking liquid. This is what we see when we see clouds. When the clouds get heavy with water and particles of matter, the liquid precipitates as rain, snow, hail or sleet. The water falling from clouds is called precipitation.
  • Evaporation happens in so many places! It is the changing of liquid water into gaseous water called vapor.
  • Tiny drops of water on leaves, flowers, puddles, moisture on the ground, and water in the vast oceans all change from liquid to gas as they warm. When you wash your hair and let it “air dry” the water converts to gas (vapor) and goes into the air.
  • What do you think happens to the water after it has evaporated?

Can you see the water evaporating?

See the sun glistening on the ocean water. As the sun warms the water on the surface of the ocean, the water evaporates and rises into the sky.


Evaporation Experiment

  • Now that you know so many facts about the water cycle, how about teaching yourself and your classmates more about evaporation? This would be a good team activity.
  • First, decide on a water source that you can work with in the classroom.
  • Oceans, too large.
  • One wet molecule of water, too small.
  • A puddle in a pie plate, a dollop of mud, a wet cloth, a glass of water, a sprinkle of water on a variety of surfaces, a bowl of ice water and the same size bowl of warm water? Just right.
  • You will need:
  • 1. Something wet.
  • 2. A data sheet. You know what to write on it.
  • 3. A prediction.
  • 4. Three more scientific things: Time, patience and the ability to infer or make an inference about a scientific change of matter that you cannot completely observe. Hint: When your wet hair dries, do you see the water evaporating and mixing with the air around you?
  • Auditory, c.i., part to whole, kinesthetic

What is the opposite of evaporation?

  • Let’s think about what we have learned so far.
  • What happens to water when it evaporates?
  • Correct, the liquid water turns to a gas called water vapor. There is water vapor in the air.
  • Does the vapor change back into liquid water?
  • Study the water cycle graphic. Discuss with other students what happens to water after evaporation.
  • Visual, p.i.

Your Condensation Experiences

  • The step after evaporation is condensation. But what is that, exactly?
  • During condensation, does water vapor change back into liquid?
  • Talk with classmates and list situations when you may have experienced water vapor becoming liquid.
  • Hint:Think of times when warm, wet air meets cold air.
  • This slide needs a graphic. Could you draw a sketch of condensation that I could use to help other students understand condensation?
  • Auditory, visual spatial, p.i., small group

Come out come out, wherever you are!

  • Let’s do a condensation experiment.
  • You will need:
  • A glass
  • Enough ice cubes to nearly fill the glass
  • Chilled water
  • A reasonably warm room. Your classroom should be ideal.
  • A data sheet on which to write a prediction, your observations, conclusion, and what you learned.
  • Procedure:
  • Put ice cubes in the glass, as many as will fit.
  • Pour chilled water into the glass, as full as is practical.
  • Put the glass of ice water in your warm room.
  • Wait, observe.
  • c. i., p.i., kinesthetic, part-to-whole


  • You have coaxed water vapor from the air by causing it to condense into liquid water.
  • The warm air in the room bumped up against the cold glass of ice water.
  • It is the same reaction as when warm air rising from the ground bumps into colder air higher up in the atmosphere and forms clouds.
  • Congratulations! Now you have conducted scientific experiments demonstrating both evaporation and condensation.
  • Now, why did we start thinking about the water cycle?
  • c. i.., verbal linguistic, solitary

Back to the Bathwater

  • Are you still thinking about whether a dinosaur sloshed in your bathwater?
  • Are you wondering whether a hippopotamus “peed” in your pool water ?
  • It is time think about how animals use water.
  • solitary, visual, spatial, cultural connections, verbal linguistic
  • There is so much you already know because you spend every second of your life with a very important animal, you!
  • Let’s list the ways you use water.
  • You may want to start your list with what you do with water when you wake up in the morning, and then list how you use water as you move through your day.
  • OR:
  • You could brainstorm about how you use water, and write down the uses as you think of them.
  • Hint: If the ideas come quickly, write a one-word note or make a quick sketch to remind you of each use. Later you can use the notes and sketches to write full sentences if necessary.

How Animals Use Water

  • How Dinosaurs and Hippopotamuses
  • and Other Animals Use Water
  • How I Use Water
  • Animals drink water.
  • Animals bathe in water.
  • Animals play and swim in water.
  • They eat food with water in it.
  • I brush my teeth.
  • I drink water.
  • I bathe in water.
  • I play in water.
  • I eat food with water in it.
  • I water my garden to grow flowers and food.
  • I feed water to my pets.
  • I wash my desk, clothes, and many other things with water.

What happens to water after it is used?

Now, what happens to water after animals drink it , bathe in it, and slosh in it?

  • Remember we learned that plants:
  • Return water to the air by transpiring. The water seeps out of the plant. It evaporates and some goes up into clouds.
  • Clouds get heavy.
  • The water that was in the plants precipitates and is collected in the ground, lakes, oceans and elsewhere on earth through precipitation.
  • Plants keep some of the water as part of their plant parts.
  • Logic, mathematics, c.i.
  • Animals return some water to the air by perspiring (sweating). The water (H2O) of the sweat evaporates . Some rises into the clouds and returns to earth as rain, snow, hail, and sleet. Some hangs in the air and condenses into dew.
  • Animals also excrete some excess water as urine. The urine goes into the ground and on the ground. Some of the H2O in the urine evaporates and is collected in clouds. Some seeps into the ground where it is cleaned by soil and rocks, then flows into groundwater, streams, rivers and into wells.
  • People drill down into the ground and pump up the water from the wells and pipe it into their homes to drink and brush teeth and bathe with, to wash things and to fill pools.
  • Animals keep some of the water to build cells to make more blood and build other parts of their bodies.

Let’s look again at the cycle of the water that the dinosaurs were sloshing in and the hippopotamus was gulping.

The water that condenses and makes your hands wet when you hold a glass of ice water in a warm room was once invisible water vapor in the air. The water that rains from the sky was once on the ground and in the oceans and rivers, and in your bathtub, the local pool, and your glass.

All the water we have on earth is all the water we have ever had, and all the water we will ever have.

It is used in a cycle!

Now, would you like a nice, cold drink of hippopotamus bath water?


Use what you know.

Play Water Cycle Think Tac Toe


Think Tac Toe notes for the teacher.

The penny experiment teaches that water molecules attract each other and stick together. This property of water molecules sticking to each other is called cohesion. The property that makes water stick to other substances is called adhesion.

The spill experiment demonstrates the same sticky property of water.

The terrarium is a miniature “earth” with the plastic acting as the outer layer of the atmosphere keeping the water in. If you cut the bottles in half then make a couple vertical slices in the bottom of the upper half of the bottle, it will slip over the bottom half of the bottle more easily. We tape the top and bottom together to prevent leaks and to keep the bottle together. To plant in the terrarium, students place some stones in the bottom, then soil, then a plant cutting. Pothos works well. They put the top half of the bottle on so the bottle looks like it did originally, but a little shorter. They water the plant through the top, then screw the cap on and promise not to take it off. They see for themselves that water is used and reused as the plant transpires, water condenses inside the terrarium, and the plant grows.

slide22 http: // The experiments are from the 2008 and 2009 Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Annual Conferences held both years in February at Baird Middle School, Ludlow. The United States Department of the Interior USGS is a wonderfully accurate source of science and social studies facts.



Bibliography and sources

http: //

Tomlinson, C., How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, 2nd edition. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA. 2001.

Hirsch, E.D. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. Core Knowledge Foundation, Charlottesville, VA. 1992

The experiments are from the 2008 and 2009 Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Annual Conferences held both years in February at Baird Middle School, Ludlow.