Evidence of the ongoing western drought was all around us as we made our way across the country during our summer road trip. We saw bone-dry riverbeds in southern Utah, and in California there are shrinking lakes in Mammoth and trickles where gushing waterfalls once roared with power deep inside Yosemite.
After we finished with our national park fun and adventure, we sat down to eat in Mammoth Lakes and our waiter happened to be a spot-on doppelganger for Steve Roslonek, a musician you and your kids likely know as Mr. Steve from PBS KIDS. One of our favorite songs of his (Mr. Steve, not our waiter) is “Water Cycle” from his marvelous 2006 album Marvelous Day (one of the first indie kids CDs we fell in love with as parents of a toddler) — it’s a song we still sing together. When I saw that waiter and observed the impact of the lack of rainfall on the left coast, I figured a water cycle activity was in order for Camp PBS Parents.
This simple activity will show your kids how the water cycle works and allow them to watch, in real time, how water from oceans, lakes and streams help to keep our planet lush, our animals and us healthy, and the ground fertile for growing food and flowers!
What You’ll Need
- a bowl
- a mug
- plastic wrap (specifically the new press & seal variety, or else you’ll need a…)
- large rubber band
How to Set Up The Water Cycle Activity
- Place a mug inside the bowl, and then fill the bowl with water up to the half way mark on the mug, being careful to leave the inside of the mug completely dry.
- Next, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and secure with the rubber band (or tie with string) if you don’t have the fancy new press and seal kind. Be sure the bowl is deeper than the mug, so that the plastic wrap is well above the mug.
- Now, place your water cycle bowl in direct sunlight, patiently wait and watch as the sun pulls moisture up and out of the ‘ocean’ you’ve made in the bowl and creates condensation in the ‘atmosphere’ (the plastic wrap). Soon you’ll have precipitation (and maybe some perspiration as you sit out in the sun!) and your mug will have water inside it.
You’ve just created and observed the water cycle!
Observing The Water Cycle
What is happening in your bowl? The ‘ocean’ water from the bottom of the bowl is evaporating and the mist is rising up and condensing (gathering) on the plastic wrap. Eventually, the ‘rain’ will then fall and fill up the previously empty mug, which in this activity is playing the role of earth’s land as well as the man-made reservoirs necessary to meet our water needs for washing our hands, taking showers, cleaning clothes, etc.
Ways Kids Can Help Conserve Water
Water is a precious resource, as folks out in California know all too well these days. You and your kids can help conserve water by taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth and also while you lather up your hands with soap, rinse your fruits and veggies in a bowl and then use that same water to feed your houseplants. And when your kids want to run through the sprinkler this summer, strategically place it in an area that needs water so your garden AND your kids are happy!