water being poured

Water Cycle Lesson Plans

By: Amanda Good

Mar 6, 2022 | 7 minute read

The water cycle is one of the most important processes on Earth. Teaching your students about its function will help them better understand our world and learn how to protect it.  SubjectToClimate has gathered water cycle lesson plans to help teachers educate students about climate change and the impact it has on the water cycle.

“Water is always on the move. Rain falling today may have been water in a distant ocean days before. And the water you see in a river or stream may have been snow on a high mountaintop. Water is in the atmosphere, on the land, in the ocean, and underground. It moves from place to place through the water cycle, which is changing as climate changes.” Center for Science Education

Friendly Guide to Climate Change - And What You Can Do to Help

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video

This Youtube video, “Friendly Guide to Climate Change - and what you can do to help” created by Henrik Kniberg from GoClimate, explains the basics of global warming, climate change, and the effects on the water cycle. It is an artistic presentation that addresses many aspects of this complex issue and offers practical solutions to climate change. 

The images are captivating and charismatic, which will keep students engaged on this complex topic. This guide is suitable to inspire students to take urgent climate action. This video covers a lot of territory, makes connections that tie them all together, and is easy to follow. 

Coloring Page: The Water Cycle

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, World Languages, Spanish

Resource Type: Activity

This diagram allows students to learn and visualize the water cycle process. A PDF file is also available in Spanish and is easy to download or assign on Google Classroom. Students can use this diagram to write a paragraph explaining the water cycle. Other recommended resources include The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes and Water Cycle Game.

The water cycle allows water to continually enter our ecosystem and ensure clean water is available for all living things on earth. This is the most basic version of the water cycle and it can become more complicated.  This coloring page is designed to teach students about the water cycle in a visual and creative way. 

Why Does Ice Float in Water?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video, Interactive Media, Assessment 

In this short TED-Ed animation, “Why does ice float in water?” created by educators George Zaidan and Charles Morton, students will learn about the unique properties of water molecules and the reason for a less dense solid structure (ice), as compared to the liquid form. This is a great resource to tie into lessons on the water cycle and the amplification of the water cycle due to increases in global temperatures. 

This video provides interesting animations and shows how water molecules move at different temperatures and how they bond with other water molecules. This resource does a great job of connecting the importance of less-dense ice for living systems. 

Disappearing Winter Snowpack

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Article, Data

The complexity of snowpack trends is easily unpacked in this article from The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)  It includes graphs, visuals and looks at the issue from multiple angles. 

“By 2050, snowmelt in the Northwest US is expected to occur three to four weeks earlier than the 20th-century average,” Disappearing Winter Snowpack from The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

This article discusses the trend of the decreasing snowpack in the western United States. The data and images provided in this resource are great teaching tools students can use to interpret and discuss and further understand the disappearing winter snowpack issue.

States of Matter Interactive Simulation

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Physics, World Languages, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Other

Resource Type: Interactive Media

Wow! PhET interactive graph activity, States of Matter Interactive Simulation, is an interactive simulation that provides students an opportunity to explore the three states of matter and their properties. Students can adjust the temperature, pressure, and volume of a gas, and view corresponding phase changes through animated diagrams. 

This resource allows students to practice self-efficacy by changing the states of matter themselves. Furthermore, there are both animations and graphical simulations, and the simplicity allows for a wide range of lessons at different skill levels. This is also a great tool for virtual or blended learning lab classes. 

Forests Near or Far Can Protect Water for Cities

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography, Health

Resource Type: Article

This article Forests Near or Far Can Protect Water for Cities, from Global Forest Watch, offers the latest data, technology, and tools that empower people everywhere to better protect forests. The article describes how forests can help maintain water quality in cities. This visually appealing resource includes infographics that demonstrate concepts of the water cycle, water treatment, infiltration, erosion, and flood control. 

Additionally, teachers can choose to have students discuss what they think "nature-based solutions" are and brainstorm additional examples of these to protect water quality.  For further investigation, your students could explore the Global Forest Watch Interactive Map. This is another amazing tool that visualizes large amounts of data related to forests and land use, including tree cover, deforestation over time, fires, types of land use, climate, and biodiversity.

The water cycle is among the most important processes on Earth. It affects all life, and without it, many living things may be missing from our world. As climate change continues, our water cycle is changing in dramatic ways. Knowing why it’s important will help us protect it for future generations. 

About the Author

Amanda is a stay-at-home Mom of two boys and two beagles. She has a diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College and certificates in Animal Care, Shelter Operations, and Wildlife Rehabilitation from Georgian College.