Water Cycle STEM models – NGSS Lesson

I had such a satisfying teaching yesterday!! I revamped one of my NGSS lessons that I tried out last year that focused on the standard:

MS-ESS2-4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.

My students designed and build working models of the water cycle using the engineering design process and they had SO. MUCH. FUN.  I was not looking forward to it – it was Monday after daylight savings time, and I was tired and unmotivated, I wasn’t really in the mood to start an involved project, but I sucked it up and decided to stick with my plan.  And…it was actually super easy to set up and took about 5 min!  I put the following materials out for my students:

aluminum foil, plastic wrap, plastic cups, rubber bands, plastic shoe boxes, hot water, ice, and heat lamps – I just set them out on a large table that was easy for the students to get to it.


I introduced the project to the students and had them start off planning in their groups.  Right away most groups had some great ideas.  A few groups needed a little direction by prompting them with some questions like – “How could you cause evaporation, would you need to add heat or cooling?”  We had also done this condensation activity previously so I referred to that and asked how they could expand on it.  Once students made a plan, they got to help themselves to materials and start building.  And once they got started, they could see immediate progress or problems with their design so they worked on improving and redesigning.  The conversations between the students showed they were really understanding what made each process in the water cycle work.  I had one boy excitedly tell me “we got condensation on our plastic wrap!  It started as small  droplets and those joined to make bigger droplets until they got so big they fell like rain.  It was just like a cloud!”  I was such a proud teacher when he told me this!   At one point in the day the principal and one administrator happened to walk by my open door and pop in and they kids did a great job explaining what they were building and how they worked.  Way to make me look good 🙂

Each class cleaned up materials beautifully so I was ready to go for the next period, and they did amazing jobs on their written part – making a plan and drawing the models.  I was exhausted by the end of the day but so happy  with  how it went.