Rain can put a real damper on your day if it means you can’t go out to play. But rain is an important part of the planet’s water cycle and can be interesting to study. So, the next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, try one of these engaging and educational activities you can break out quickly as that raincloud approaches! Of course, if you have a day or two to prepare you can go a step further. Remember that Earth Day is the 22nd of April and many of these activities would be perfect for your Earth Day studies.
Water Themed Stories
Educational approaches like investigative and project based learning are effective because students are immersed in the topic at hand. Students are encouraged to examine a single concept, issue, or process from many different perspectives. Helping students diffuse their focus helps them to transfer knowledge. One way to support that diffusion is to keep them thinking about classroom topics outside of school. Supplement your in-class activities with homework that encourages students to examine their other environments or introduces the topic in other settings. Try some of the activities below in class, then assign a story that has a water theme or in which some part of the water cycle plays a major role. You’ll be helping your students solidify the knowledge they gained in class, and you don’t even have to be there!
Make it Rain! (and other activities)
- Start your rain study by making a rain gauge. Simple to make with (recycled) materials you already have on hand, this little device will be the center of many explorations throughout the month.
- Once you’ve set up your outdoor rain collection station, dry off indoors and watch a video that takes a closer look at how rain works. Learn about the water cycle, from evaporation, to condensation, to precipitation. This is a great connection to a unit on states of matter. Here’s a well-made video for older students.
- Younger students can let off some energy with this easily adaptable gross motor, puddle jumping, literacy activity. Just make sure to securely tape the ‘puddles’ to the floor to avoid slips!
- Turn attention from abstract to concrete with a rain jar that shows exactly how condensation occurs to make clouds, and then precipitates into rain. Remember to temper your glass jar (by running it under hot water to warm it up) before pouring in hot water, so it doesn’t crack!
- Once students have seen and studied the processes of the water cycle, really make it stick with an individual water cycle listening activity. Introduce the activity, put on a rain story and let your students go to work! Click here for free, instant downloads for students up to 5th grade. Older students can make diagrams using magazine cutouts or make a flipbook to ‘animate’ the cycle. Cross grade lines by asking older students to design materials to explain the water cycle to younger students.
It's a Watery Life
Now that you’ve learned about the water cycle, turn your focus to the creatures who live in and on the water of the world. Rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans are home to all kind of animals who can be studied as groups or individually. Water is essential to human life too - how does water affect the lives and lifestyles of people around the world?
- Preschoolers and kindergarteners can start their study of habitats with a simple sorting activity. Describe the different characteristics of each area as well as the shared or similar features of the animals who live there.
- Elementary students will be interested to investigate the differences between water habitats. How do rivers differ from lakes or oceans?
- Middle schoolers can dive deeper into each wet habitat.
- Examine the food chains and ecosystem. This is a field trip opportunity if you have a creek or stream nearby!
- Make a self-contained ecosystem with snails, plants, and water. If you have the resources for each student to make one, they can compare and contrast as their ecosystems flourish. If not, a single terrarium can be observed by groups or the whole class.
- Record observations of your stream or your terrariums. Have students keep an observation journal (free, instant download), just like real life biologists and ecologists.
- High school students who already understand the water cycle can ‘zoom in’ or ‘zoom out’ with their continuing studies of our planet’s relationship with water.
- ‘Zoomed in’ examinations might include comparing samples of different water sources – take a look with a microscope, and test the pH level. If you don’t have natural sources, try different drinking water sources. Record hypotheses about the test results (Team Bottled vs. Team Tap?), and then discuss the outcome.
- ‘Zoom out’ and look at how water is processed or accessed. Tie the science into sociology and the global economy by starting a discussion about how people in different parts of the world get access to this essential resource.
Rain and Water Listening Suggestions