Learning about the Water Cycle in Tierra Amarilla

Last week was a pretty wet one in New Mexico, and that made it the perfect time to bring up one of our favorite topics- the water cycle! Most 5th and 6th grade students have at least heard of the water cycle, but last Thursday in Tierra Amarilla, we took it to a new level!

We began by discussing the amount of water on Earth. Many people can rattle off statistics about the percentage of Earth’s surface that is covered by water, but when you start looking at the volume of water on Earth that’s usable, it’s a different story. NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission has a really nice lesson plan that includes a demonstration using a 5 gallon bucket. This bucket represents all of the water on Earth. By the time you eliminate salt water, water that isn’t clean, and water that isn’t accessible, you have one tiny drop left!

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Checking out our bucket of water that represented all of the water on Earth

Next, we discussed the water cycle. Most of the students were familiar with this, but we added a few new terms: transpiration, evapotranspiration, and groundwater.

We demonstrated the water cycle with a camp stove. Since the sun’s radiation drives the water cycle on Earth, it’s a nice model. It was raining for much of this demonstration, so we got a good look at the precipitation stage of the water cycle!

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It was a chilly day, and the camp stove was a welcome source of warmth!
Adding ice to create condensation in our model water cycle
Adding ice to create condensation in our model water cycle

Students also drew the water cycle for their community. We discussed where our water comes from, where it goes, how it’s used, and why we care about water quality.

Drawing the water cycle for a specific place isn't as easy as it sounds!
Drawing the water cycle for a specific place isn’t as easy as it sounds!

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After completing their drawings, a few students presented them to the class!

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Finally, we spent a few minutes reviewing water quality parameters. All of this talk about water made us pretty excited to go to the river the next time we’re up in Tierra Amarilla!

Christy

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