Water Is Cool!

3, 4, 5

The purpose of the lesson is to learn about the uses of water, the water cycle, and to discuss the importance of water as a finite resource.  A further purpose is to discuss why being good stewards of this resource is acting for the common good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo days - three forty-five minute class periods

The learner will:

  • identify sources of water.
  • list several uses of water.
  • explain why water is important.
  • explain why water is a nonrenewable resource.
  • explain why it is important to be a good steward of water and how this relates to the Core Democratic Value – Common Good.
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Glass of water
  • Computer access if you are going to include student interaction with water cycle websites
  • Handout One: Water on Earth
  • Handout Two: Find Someone Who…
  • Materials for the demonstration to model the distribution of water:
  • One 100mL graduated cylinder
  • A bucket to hold 9.5 liters (2.5 gallons)
  • One eyedropper
  • One permanent marker
  • 8 clear plastic cups
  • One 1000mL beaker
  • One 100mL graduated cylinder
  • Cup with water
  • Beaker with ice
  • Heat source (hot plate)
  • Wet paper towel
  • Creating the Terrarium (see Day Two instructions for details)
  • Two Liter bottle
  • 0.5 liter potting soil
  • Small plant or seed (Note: if using seeds, plant a few weeks before this lesson.)water


  1. Teacher Note: Much of the information and the demonstration itself are adapted from the lesson “How Wet is Our Planet?” from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Middle School Curriculum Guide, developed by Bay Area Community Foundation and others.

    Anticipatory Set: Have the learners do a quick-write, considering each of the following questions, then have a few volunteers share their thoughts. How much of the Earth’s surface is made of water? (about 70%- hence the Earth has been referred to as the “water planet”). How much of your body is made of water? (About 60 -70%) Why is clean water important? (All living things depend on it.)

  2. Ask learners the following questions to raise their curiosity: If we were to consider all of the water on the Earth, how much do you think is readily available for human use? Why might we have more of a need for fresh water? Where is most of the Earth’s freshwater located? 

  3. Fill a glass with water and place it on a desk. Ask learners: “How old do you think this water is?” (Accept a variety of answers).

  4. Explain that even if it fell during a rainstorm two weeks ago, it could be the same water that a Tyrannosaurus Rex Dinosaur drank millions of years ago.

  5. Explain that centuries ago water usage was done without money or cost and bodies of water were well taken care of by Naive People who considered water to be sacred.

  6. Explain what renewable and nonrewable resources are. (A renewable resource is an organic natural resource which can replenish to overcome usage and consumption, either through biological reproduction or other naturally reoccurring processes" (Wikipedia). Continue the discussion by asking the learners whether water is considered a renewable resource. All water that is present on the Earth, in all forms – solid, liquid, and gas, has been here since the beginning of time. It is all that we will ever have. It continues to recycle. If we do not take care of our water resources, all life on Earth will suffer.

    There are interesting discussions online about how water could be considered nonrenewable. This would be a good research and writing assignment.

  7. Continue with the following demonstration to model the distribution of water on the Earth:

  8. Materials for demonstration model:

    1. One 100 ml graduated cylinder container (ex. bucket) that holds about 9.5 liters (2.5 gallons)
    2. One eyedropper, one permanent marker
    3. 8 clear plastic cups, one 1000 ml beaker
  9. Use the 1,000 ml beaker to fill the bucket with 10,000 ml of water.

  10. Tell the learners that you are going to pretend that the 10,000 ml of water (about 2 ½ gallons) represents all of the water on Earth.

  11. Using the permanent marker, label each cup with a different name from the following list:

    1. Icecaps/ glaciers
    2. Groundwater
    3. Freshwater lakes
    4. Great Lakes
    5. Saltwater Lakes/seas
    6. Atmosphere
    7. Rivers/Streams
    8. Unaccounted for
  12. Using the 100 ml cylinder, take 200ml of water from the bucket and place it in the cup labeled Icecaps/glaciers.This will represent all of the water on Earth that is located in icecaps and glaciers.

  13. Use the following measurements to determine how much water needs to be in the remaining cups. The water that remains in the bucket represents all of the water in the Earth’s oceans.


  14. If all of the water on Earth was equal to 10,000 ml, you would find the following amounts in these locations:

    • Oceans 9,720.0 ml
    • Icecaps/Glaciers 200.0ml
    • Groundwater 62.0ml
    • Great Lakes 0.18ml = 4drops
    • Freshwater Lakes 0.72ml = 14 drops
    • Inland Seas / Salt Lakes 0.8ml =16 drops
    • Atmosphere 0.1ml = 2 drops
    • All Rivers, Streams 0.01ml = dab it
    • Unaccounted for 16.19ml


  15. Give each learner a copy of the handout Water on Earth. Allow time for the learners to answer the questions after the demonstration. Discuss their answers.

  16. Discuss the meaning of Common Good. It involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community (even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money); to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all. For example, if families in your neighborhood work to clean up a vacant lot and plant it with flowers to create a neighborhood garden, everyone in the community would benefit from the garden.

  17. Ask students to give examples and explanations of how protecting our freshwater supply from pollution is related to the common good.

  18. Day Two:

    Make observations about the water cycle in a classroom model or from prior experience. 

    Teacher Note: It would be beneficial to your explanation of the water cycle to have a simple terrarium or model of a controlled water cycle to observe over an extended period of time. Be sure to draw learners’ attention to the water cycle telling them to make daily observations. Here is one method to make a water cycle model: https://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_1_2_4t.htm 

  19. Make a terrarium model of the water cycle: 

    Cut a two-liter bottle in half.

  20. Place potting soil in the bottom half of the bottle

  21. Plant one or two small plants in the soil (peas, marigold, or bean seeds)

  22. Water the terrarium and close it back up, either by using clear packing tape to put the two halves back together or by squeezing the top portion of the bottle into the bottom to make a dome. Put the bottle terrarium in a window that receives plenty of light or place it under a lamp if a window is not available. Keep in mind too much light is not good for the plants. Allow students to make initial predictions as to what will happen over the course of the next several days.

  23. Anticipatory Set:

    Have each learner write or draw what they think happens to a drop of water after it falls from the sky. When they have finished, have them share their thoughts with a partner.

    Use student responses as a springboard to a discussion of the water cycle and the continual cycle of condensation, evaporation, and precipitation. Discuss how water supply is finite and limited for consumption by ice, salt water, and pollution.

    Point out to the learners that only 3 percent of the Earth’s water is usable for humans.

  24. Discuss the three states of matter with the learners. (solid, liquid, gas).Tell the learners that water is matter and it can be found in all three forms depending on the temperature of the water.

  25. Show the learners a glass of water. Ask: "What state of matter is represented by the glass of water?" (liquid) Discuss where water may be found on Earth. Be sure to mention that rain is counted as liquid water.

  26. Show the learners an ice cube or representation of an ice cube. Ask: "What state of matter is represented by the ice cube?" (solid) What would happen to the ice cube if left in the dish for an extended period? (It would melt or become liquid)

  27. Show the learners a wet paper towel. Ask: "What will happen to the paper towel if it is left out for a period of time?" (It will dry out or the water will evaporate) Tell the learners evaporation is a form of gas. (Note: Another way to demonstrate steam is to use a heating device and water container to bring water to a boil.) Teacher Note: see http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/the-water-cycle/ for an in-depth water cycle lesson.

  28. Using the terrarium, discuss the water cycle further. Ask the learners to identify the state of water that are represented in the terrarium.

  29. Discuss the following terms, using a diagram of the water cycle

    • Evaporation – The process of water changing from a liquid to a gas. This occurs when the sun heats up the water in oceans, lakes, rivers, etc., turning it into vapor, which goes into the air.
    • Condensation – The process by which water vapor changes from a gas to a liquid. Water that has been evaporated into the air by the sun gets cold and changes back into a liquid, collecting on tiny particles in the air and forming clouds.
    • Precipitation – When enough water has condensed that the air cannot hold anymore, the clouds get heavy and water falls back to the earth as rain, snow, ice or hail – depending on the temperature.
    • Runoff – Water returning to the oceans, lakes, rivers, groundwater, etc. by running over the earth to these locations (or soaking into the ground).
    • Transpiration – The process by which plants lose water through their leaves (as water vapor) – releasing the water into the air.
  30. Point out to the learners that not all water is available at all times to be involved in this cycling. Some water is out of the cycle for extended periods of time as it is frozen in glaciers. This is another reason why it is so important to keep the available water clean.


Ask the learners to write two or three paragraphs explaining why it is important to take care of the Earth’s water supply.This could be in the form of a letter written to the city council or other local government agency asking that agency to help protect the water supply by creating policies and laws that will help clean up pollution. Hand out Attachment Two, Lesson One: Find Someone Who… to learners. Create groups of three learners each to do the activity. Tell the learners that they must interview their partners to complete the worksheet.

Cross Curriculum 

Create a classroom newsletter detailing why water is important and why it is necessary to take care of it.The newsletter could include such aspects as an informational piece, a letter to the editor, a comic strip, and a game or puzzle using vocabulary from the lesson. Share the newspaper with others in the school, parents and the community.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.13 Describe limited resources and scarcity.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.