Grade Levels: 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students play the Water Cycle Game which challenges them to figure out how water molecules change form and move through the world in order to collect enough water pieces to beat their opponent(s). Along the way, students discover that a range of actions, including evaporation, runoff, condensation, precipitation, soil absorption, and ground water expansion move water from one zone to another.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand the natural cycle of water.
  2. Recognize that the the water cycle includes different pools or reservoirs that water moves among.
  3. Understand the events and processes that cause water to move through the water cycle.
  4. Recognize the role of time and the impact of human behavior on the water cycle.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


water cycle, evaporation, runoff, condensation, precipitation, soil absorption, ground water expansion


This lesson plan features a game called Water Cycle Game developed by our partner,  Field Day Lab. The game develops students’ understanding of how water moves through various places including rivers, the ocean, earth’s surface, the atmosphere, and clouds. They’ll discover how actions, such as evaporation, runoff, condensation, precipitation, soil absorption, and ground water expansion move water from one zone to another.

Preview and play the Water Cycle Game to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Read the Water Cycle Game: SnapThought Prompts for ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game, and for specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Water Cycle, Groundwater, Earth’s Atmosphere, Air Pollution, Clouds, Erosion, Climate Change, Greenhouse Effect, and  Erosion.  

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Assess students’ prior knowledge of the water cycle by asking them what they know, such as Where in the world can you find water? How much of earth is made up of water? What are different forms of water? How does water change from one form to another?
  2. Next, build students’ understanding by showing the BrainPOP movie Water Cycle to the whole class on the whiteboard or other display. Make sure students understand the sequence of events and processes that make up the water cycle. If times allows, have students watch the movie again with a partner or small group from within the Make-a-Map tool. Show them how to select the Cyclical Relationship Map by clicking the My Maps icon on the left and then Use map templates.   As they watch the movie again, have them pause and fill in the concept map.
  3. Display the Water Cycle Game on the whiteboard. Preview the comic strip. Ask students, What are some forms/states of water you see in this comic? Does the order seem to matter?
  4. Now play the game tutorial for the whole class, reading the narration or inviting volunteers to read. After the character explains how to play, reiterate that the objective is to get most of your team’s water molecules into the goal zones, which is achieved by understanding how water changes form and moves through the environment. Remind the class that players can choose to move their own team’s water molecule toward the goal zone, or their opponents away from the goal zone. Continue the tutorial to show how the game is played.
  5. Once students understand how to play, divide the class into partners or small groups of Red and Blue to play against each other at their own computers or devices. Instruct them to select the “Multiplayer: Same Screen” version of the game with the “10 turns” option. Explain that a player on the team is to select a card and read the card description aloud to the team, and together determine where the water molecule will move and why. Then have the team select which molecule they want to move -- their own or their opponent’s--and make the move.
  6. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during game play, and reflect on their discoveries. For suggested prompts, see Water Cycle: SnapThought Prompts.
  7. Circulate as students play and help as needed. Listen in to make sure they are using strategies and their knowledge of the water cycle, rather than guessing. Remind them to recall their water cycle concept maps, or have them refer to them if they’re still accessible.
  8. Bring the class together to discuss what they learned about the water cycle. If students are using SnapThought, encourage them to share their reflections.

Extension Activities:

  • Construct a model of the water cycle using a one liter bottle, plastic tumbler, ice, hot water. Watch this Raindrop video for a visual demonstration.
  • Have students create a water cycle collage or make a digital version of the water cycle, explaining each step in the process.