Water Cycle Science Fair Projects
Here are three hands on water cycle experiments. These are inspirations and fun experiments for teachers, homeschool parents, and science fair projects.
What Is Water Cycle?
Water cycle is also known as hydrologic cycle or hydrological cycle. It describes how water moves continuously on Earth.
Water loops through different stages – evaporation, condensation, precipitation and flow. It then goes back to the evaporation stage.
The whole cycle starts all over again and hence the name “water cycle”.
Stages Of The Water Cycle
Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and makes up approximately 60% of our bodies. This amazing natural resource is essential for life in both animals and plants.
Besides having many amazing properties, water is the only substance that appears on Earth naturally in all three physical states of matter — gas (water vapor), liquid (water), and solid (snow, ice). Most other substances only exist in one state in nature.
As water goes through the different stages of the water cycle, it changes from one form to anther by absorbing or releasing heat energy in the process.
Water Cycle Experiment 1
Simple Water Cycle In A Bag Experiment
In this simple “water cycle in a bag” experiment, we will observe the different stages of the water cycle process up close.
- a ziplock plastic bag (I used 2 Gallon bag)
- color markers (e.g. Sharpie Permanent Markers or any non-erasable markers)
- blue food coloring (optional)
- packing tape
- adult supervision
- Draw the watercycle diagram.
- Warm up the water until steam starts to rise but do not let it boil.
- Add blue food coloring into the water to represent ocean water.
- Pour the water into a ziplock bag and zip it up.
- Hang the bag upright on the window (or the door like I did) using packing tape.
- As the water evaporates, vapors rise and condense at the top of the bag. A white patch can be seen resembling clouds in the upper atmosphere.
- After a while, water droplets appear on the inside of the bag. As they become bigger, they will eventually slide downward. The sliding down resembles the flow stage that brings water back into the sea.
- If the water is still warm or if the bag is left on the window facing sunlight, it will keep cycling through the four different stages of the water cycle.
Explore more about the water cycle by answering these questions.
- Can you describe the relationship between the water cycle 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?
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Evaporation takes place wherever there is exposed water, e.g. on the surface of the ocean, rivers or lakes, when we sweat, when animals sweat and when plants transpire.
When the sun heats up exposed water, the water on the surface turns into vapor and goes into the air.
Evaporation can happen at any temperature, but warm water evaporates faster than cold water. If you boil the water, you can see steam rising from the surface. That is a fast, visible evaporation.
Water Cycle Experiment 2
Evaporation-Distillation Water Science
In this water cycle project, let's make our own distilled water using evaporation, one of the important properties of water.
- warm water
- plastic food wrap
- a small, slightly weighty object (you can use things like a stuffed toy)
- food coloring (optional)
- a large bowl
- a small cup (make sure it's shorter than the large bowl)
- adult supervision
- Pour warm water into the large bowl.
- Add food coloring if you want to see how the distilled water turns out different.
- Put the empty small cup in the middle of the colored water.
- Wrap the mouth of the bowl with water using food wrap.
- Place the small object on the wrap so that it is slightly depressed right above the small cup. But make sure the cling wrap doesn't touch the rim of the small cup.
- Set the bowl under the sun and wait.
- After a while, you should start seeing drops of condensed water vapor appear under the plastic wrap.
- Note the color of the condensed water in the small cup.
Condensation leads to cloud formation.
When invisible water vapors in the air rise and reach the upper atmosphere, the cold temperature causes them to release heat and change back into liquid form. These fine water droplets hang on dust particles in the air in the form of clouds.
As water droplets collide and condense together in the upper atmosphere, they grow larger and heavier.
When the water droplets’ fall speed exceeds the cloud updraft speed, they fall out of the cloud as precipitation in the form of rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow or hail.
Water Cycle Experiment 3
Make Your Own Rain - Water Cycle In A Bottle Science Experiment
Let's make rain!
- a clear bottle
- adult supervision
- Fill the bottle with water to about 1 inch high.
- Place the bottle by a window that can receive direct sunlight.
- Wait (while you do something else).
- After several hours, drops of water can be seen on the upper part of the bottle.
Through precipitation, water falls back onto the Earth’s surface.
The flow of water ends up in the rivers, lakes or seas as ocean water. Some soaks into the ground and becomes ground water, which feeds the plants or runs through the soil ending up in the ocean. Some is consumed by animals.
From there, the water cycle starts all over again.
Water Cycle Teaching Materials
Here are some great tool and amazing resource on water cycle and other interesting water facts.
Water is Life: Different Sources of Water and Ways to Conserve Them
This book is a wonderful introduction to the importance of water in our lives.
The Snowflake : A Water Cycle Story
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 Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet
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 Drop Around the World
A Drop Around The World 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!
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!
Why Should I Save Water?
Discuss why we should always conserve water. This book is perfect to read during a school unit on Water Cycle, Water Conservation or Saving the Earth. Although this book makes the mistake of oversimplifying the reasons for saving water, it still provides a good starting point for kids to think about the importance of saving water. Suitable for elementary school units.
National Geographic Readers: Water
Another wonderful water cycle book with vivid photography and easy to understand text.
A Fish Out of Water
Written by Dr. Seuss, this is a great book for young children. It talks about the importance of following instructions when taking care of pets.
A World in a Drop of Water
Exploring the world in water with the help of this book and a microscope.
Water Experiment Kits
Water properties have many significant impacts on the environment we live in. Learn more about the different properties of water in these science experiments using water.