If you want to teach What Is The Water Cycle in the classroom or in your homeschool, this experiment is one of the best visual demonstrations you can use for that.
Water covers approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface and makes up about 70% of your mass.
This amazing natural resource is essential for life, both animals and plants.
Properties of water can have many significant impacts on the environment we live in.
It is the only substance that appears on Earth naturally in all three physical states of matter — gas, liquid, and solid. Most other substances only exist in one state.
What is the water cycle?
Water cycle describes how water moves continuously on Earth.
The water then comes back to the evaporation stage. The whole cycle starts all over again and hence the name “water cycle”.
In this simple “water cycle in a bag” experiment, we will learn about the water cycle process.
This easy experiment can also be used as a water cycle model in the classroom to help teachers explain the different water states.
What you need
- a ziplock plastic bag
- blue food coloring (optional)
- scotch tape
- adult supervision
- Warm up the water until steam starts to rise.
- Add blue food coloring to represent seawater.
- Pour the water into the ziplock bag and close the bag.
- Hang the bag upright on the window or the door like I did using scotch tape.
- As water evaporates from the pouch of water, which represents the sea, you can see the vapors form a white patch on the top of the bag. That represents water condensation to form clouds in the upper atmosphere.
- After a while, water droplets start to appear on the bag. Eventually, the drops of water will slide downward and that represents raining.
- The rain eventually flows back into the sea.
- If the water is still warm, it can keep cycling through the four different stages of the water cycle.
Stages of water cycle
When the sun heats up water in the sea, lakes or rivers, the water on the surface turns into vapor and goes into the air. Evaporation takes place wherever there is exposed water, e.g. when we sweat, when animals sweat and when plants respire.
Warm water evaporates faster than cold water. If you boil the water, you can see steam rising from the water surface. That is a fast, visible evaporation.
But even when you cannot see steam or vapor, evaporation can still happen, but at a much slower rate. You can try this Evaporation –> Distillation experiment to see how water can evaporate even at room temperature.
When the water vapor in the air rises and gets cold in the upper atmosphere, it changes back into liquid. These fine water droplets hang on dust particles to form clouds.
In this Can You Make Rain experiment, condensation of water droplets is clearly seen on the bottle. It is pretty neat, isn’t it? This experiment is a water cycle all by itself!
When too many water droplets come together, the clouds get heavy. Then gravity causes the droplets to fall resulting in rain (or snow in places that are very cold).
Through raining, water fall back onto the Earth’s surface. When it ends up on land, some will flow downward and end up in the sea, lakes or rivers. Some soaks into the ground and becomes ground water, which feeds the plants or runs over the soil into the sea, lakes or rivers. From there, the water cycle starts all over again.
Can you think of another experiment you can do to make a water cycle? Tell us in the comment below.
Experimenting and making a water cycle yourself is a great way to learn science. Now try to apply that knowledge to the real world.
- Can you describe the relationship between water and living things?
- How does snow fit into the water cycle process?
- What causes soil erosion?
- Have you seen the four stages of the water cycle appear in our daily lives?
Books On Water Cycle
Here are some good books to explore more about the water cycle and other interesting water facts.
A Drop Around The World is one of teachers’ favorites.
It does a great job explaining what the water cycle is.
It doesn’t water-downed (no pun intended!) on facts and yet it uses language children can understand.
The best part — it is also very entertaining and interesting to kids of all ages.
If you are looking to buy one book on the topic “water cycle”, this is the one you should get!
This is one of my favorite books on the water cycle process.
It is a beautifully illustrated picture book, but despite that, this is a non-fiction book.
It follows a snowflake through the seasons to see how water freezes during the winter and then melts when spring arrives.
Once it’s in liquid form, it goes through the four stages of the water cycle.
The best part of this book is that it teaches children how to read and then infer the meaning of the words without making it look like a lesson.
At the same time, it provides engaging visual materials for those who learn better visually. It is an excellent book to learn where water comes from.
This book is more suitable for older kids (grades 3-5) because it talks more about the science of water and uses some advanced scientific terms.
Besides the remarkable paintings and pictures, this book also raises issues about the environment and really makes you think more about your daily usage of water.
It is a great complement to the water cycle experiment.
A reader told me about this book and so I checked it out.
Through graceful, informative poetic verse, Water Dance tells a story of water dancing through different stages of the water cycle.
It is captivating and definitely not a boring fact-filled book.
The beautifully illustrated pictures are almost like a work of art. Kids will like reading it!
I’m so glad my reader alerted me to this great find. Keep the feedback coming!
It is a great book to discuss why we should always conserve water and perfect to read during a school unit on Water Cycle, Water Conservation or Saving the Earth.
This book does make the mistake of oversimplifying the reasons for saving water, but it is a good starting point for kids to think about the importance of saving water. Suitable for elementary school units.
Water Cycle Model
For teachers who are looking for a more substantial 3D water cycle model, this one is for you.
This model includes a set of 10 full-color study cards to illustrate the process.
You need to supply your own ice cubes, water and heat lamp for the demonstration.
It is nice to use this bigger model of the water cycle to demonstrate to the class.
But at $77.41, this stay-at-home-mom will stick with her ziploc bag water cycle. 🙂
More Books On Water