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Activity 4-1: A Day in the Life of a Water Molecule

PLAN

Summary Students listen to a story that describes what might happen to a molecule of water during a period of one day. Imagining themselves as a molecule of water as they follow the water molecule's cycle helps the students learn the parts of the water cycle.

Objectives

Students:

\checkmark identify the major components of the water cycle.

\checkmark recognize that water is constantly reused.

Student Materials

  • None

Teacher Materials

  • Resource (You may choose to prepare copies for all students.)
  • Audiotape (if one was produced)

Advance Preparation

You may want to make an audiotape of yourself or someone else reading the story.

Estimated Time

One 50-minute period

Interdisciplinary Connections

Visual/Performing Arts Encourage the students to illustrate the events from their plays on a poster and add the appropriate labels. Student drawings could be shared with the class through discussion and displayed in the room.

Language Arts Students write their own story about a water molecule traveling through a specific animal or a human being. Then they compare and contrast their story with the one in Activity 4-1: A Day in the Life of a Water Molecule.

Prerequisites and Background Information

Before beginning this activity it would be helpful to refresh students' knowledge about atoms and molecules. Draw a water molecule-H_2O-on the board like the one represented below. Remind the students that two parts (atoms) of hydrogen combine with one part (atom) of oxygen to make each water molecule.

Discuss with students the terms evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and transpiration.

IMPLEMENT

Introduce Activity 4-1 by asking students to imagine that they have each been transformed into a water molecule. To emphasize the transformation you could have students hold a small card in each hand to represent a hydrogen atom (H) and tape another card to their foreheads representing an oxygen atom (O).

Step 1 Remind students about good listening skills. Read the story to your class or play an audiotape of the story recorded previously.

Steps 2-3 After the story, students should have time to offer comments, raise questions, and discuss questions with each other. Student responses can be gathered orally or assigned for written feedback. Ask students to describe the importance of the following:

  • evaporation
  • condensation
  • precipitation
  • transpiration

Discuss with students the following questions.

  • How could this water cycle vary depending upon your location?
  • Do the same water molecules continue to cycle through the environment? Why is this important?
  • What other questions do you have about water?

Step 4 Arrange students into groups of four and ask them to choose roles that they will perform as the story is read a second time. Once students are in groups, have them reread Step 4 from the Procedure to be sure that the roles they choose will include all of the parts of the story.

Steps 5-6 Have each group briefly describe the parts of the story. Have the class select the best parts from each group's plan and design a class play based on the story. Then have the class perform the play as the story is read a second time.

Extend Activity 4-1 by encouraging students to illustrate the events on a poster and add the appropriate labels. Student drawings could be shared with the class through discussion and displayed in the room.

Have students write their own story about a water molecule traveling through a specific animal or a human being. Then, ask students to compare and contrast their story with the one in Activity 4-1: A Day in the Life of a Water Molecule.

Helpful Hints

You may wish to add suitable background music as you read the story for the class play. For example, George Frideric Handel composed Water Music for the birthday of the king of England in the 1700s.

ASSESS

Use the final product-the performance of the story-to assess if students can

\checkmark describe how water molecules move through the water cycle.

\checkmark explain that water is constantly being recycled.

\checkmark explain and represent evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and transpiration.

What Do You Think?

Many scientists are now recommending the planting of trees on a large scale to reduce the effects of global warming. Why do you think this would help? What do you think are some ways to motivate and organize your classmates to volunteer their time to plant trees in your neighborhood?

A suggested response will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org.

What would happen to humans if all the plants on Earth died?

A Day in the Life of a Carbon Atom Students apply their knowledge of the carbon cycle to write a descriptive story of the path a carbon atom takes when moving through the carbon cycle. Students can use the story A Day in the Life of a Water Molecule as a model for their carbon atom story.

Implement You may want to discuss the following questions to help your students focus on components of the carbon cycle.

  • What are some of the sources of carbon released into the atmosphere?

Some examples include carbon atoms released when animals exhale; forest fires; and volcano explosions; exhaust from automobiles, trains, and planes; smoke from factories.

  • What is the role of carbon dioxide in the carbon cycle?

Carbon dioxide is a form of carbon that can move freely in the atmosphere and become part of the bodies of animals and plants.

Write a story of what happens to you for the rest of the day. Be sure to include all the major parts of the carbon cycle.

A suggested response will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org.

What was the original source of the energy for the plants and animals that eventually became coal, oil, or natural gas?

Create a Cycle Poster Students demonstrate their knowledge of a specific resource (water, carbon, oxygen, or nitrogen) by creating a poster that shows how the resource cycles through the ecosystem.

Implement

  • Have students select one of the following types of cycles: water, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen.
  • Ask students to make a sketch to show the important parts of the cycle they selected. Remind them to use arrows to show the direction that the resource takes through the ecosystem.
  • Encourage students to think about their own role in the cycle and be sure to include themselves in the sketch.
  • After you have approved their sketches, have students make a final poster showing how the resource they selected cycles through the ecosystem.
  • Post the posters around the room and discuss the various cycles the posters demonstrate.

Imagine the journey that a carbon atom took from the moment it was exhaled by a dinosaur to the moment you exhaled it yourself in a carbon dioxide molecule. Write a story about that carbon atom's journey. Be creative. Try to think of the many plants, animals, and famous historical people the carbon atom could have been a part of.

A suggested response will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org.

  • Explain if it is possible that you could be breathing an atom of carbon that was exhaled by a dinosaur.
  • Explain why you think it is or is not possible to remove elements from their natural cycles.

Review Questions/Answers

  • Sample answers to these questions will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org to request sample answers.
  1. Why don't forests in Wisconsin run out of the things such as water and carbon dioxide that they need to live and function?
  2. What provides the energy for the water cycle?
  3. Where can you find most of the fresh water in the United States?
  4. Why is the carbon cycle studied by ecologists?

Activity 4-1 Resource: A Day in the Life of a Water Molecule (Student Reproducible)

Imagine you are a water molecule.

You are made up of an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, and you are constantly in motion.

Molecules move faster when it is warm and slower when it is colder.

As you move around, you bump into other molecules and then bounce off into space.

But no matter what, you are always moving.

On this day you are rising through the air, high into the sky.

You approach the clouds and begin bumping into other water molecules more often as the sky becomes filled with other water molecules.

All the while you are moving steadily upwards.

As the sky becomes more crowded, you realize you are gradually becoming colder and colder.

It's harder for you to move quickly because of the cold. So you begin to slow down a little.

You find that you and other water molecules are sticking together.

Soon there are several groups of water molecules stuck together.

Your group is growing in size...and continuing to slow down...

Wait!

Something is happening!

You are falling!

You have become part of a raindrop!

The clouds become distant as you drop toward the ground.

You are rapidly coming closer and closer to the trees.

Other raindrops are falling alongside you.

Suddenly, your fall is broken by a leaf-splat!

As soon as you hit it, you start sliding down onto another leaf...and another leaf...and then slip off onto the ground-splat!

Immediately you flow into the dark gaps between small rock particles in the soil.

As you slide over bits of soil, you sense a different texture.

It feels like you are slithering around the smooth, round body of a worm!

Suddenly you feel yourself being pulled sideways.

Then you realize it's the root of a plant!

You and other water molecules are being drawn through the root into a cell of the plant.

You move from cell to cell, slowly being transported up through the plant's stem.

You have been cold and sluggish all this time, but as you near the surface of the leaves, you feel warm and energized!

You squeeze through a hole in the leaf and pop out into the fresh air again!

You are much warmer now.

You start separating from the other water molecules you've been attached to while on the ground.

Your motion speeds up and you begin bouncing around among the other molecules.

As you rise again toward the sky, you realize you are just one small part of the never-ending cycle of water on our planet Earth.

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