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Activity Overview

When students are learning about the water cycle, it's helpful for them to have a diagram that shows each step in one image. In this activity, students will create their own water cycle diagrams. You can differentiate or scaffold this activity by adding or removing information from the template or instructions. Students are also encouraged to provide a description of each step or the cycle as a whole using textables or the cell and description layout.

Water Cycle Description

The water cycle has no starting point, but this guide will start its description in the ocean.

The ocean is the largest store of water on Earth. Water evaporates from here, as well as rivers and lakes, when the surface is heated by the Sun. This warm, wet air rises because it is less dense than the other air around it. Higher up in the atmosphere, the water condenses to form clouds. Precipitation happens when the water particles cool and form bigger droplets. Depending on the temperature, these droplets fall as rain, frozen rain, snow, and hail.

Some of this precipitation falls straight back into water and some other precipitation falls onto the land. Some of this water flows across the surface of the ground; this is called surface runoff. This happens when the water can’t permeate into the ground. Other water infiltrates the ground and travels underground. This is known as groundwater flow. Eventually all this water runs into streams and lakes, and ultimately back into the sea for the water to go through this cycle again.

Some of the water gets absorbed by plants which they use for photosynthesis. Most plants get their water from the soil using their roots. The plants then need to move this water to their leaves where photosynthesis takes place. They do this using tubes in their stems called xylem. The process used to move the water is called transpiration.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create your own model of the Water Cycle.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Find an appropriate scene from the "Outdoor" or "Country & Rustic" categories.
  3. Use arrows to show the movement of water in the water cycle.
  4. Label the main parts of the water cycle with text and arrows.
  5. Add extra information about the water cycle with text boxes. Describe what’s happening at each stage.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [SCI-4-ESS2-2] Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Labeled diagram
Label the diagram giving the functions of each part.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
All the labels are correct.
Most of the labels are correct.
Some of the labels are correct.
All the functions are correct with no grammar or spelling mistakes.
Most of the functions are correct with some grammar and spelling mistakes.
Some of the functions are correct with many grammar and spelling mistakes.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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