Monday, April 23, 2012

Seven O'Clock Science: The Water Cycle

We are quite obsessed with rain in our home. We talk constantly about what rain is, where it comes from, what it does for the earth, the plants, for us. My husband and I field lots and lots of questions about rain. But not because we ever actually see any. I am certain that there is some sort of mathematical equation that would explain how the time we spend talking about the rain is an inverse correlate of the amount of rain that falls in Lubbock.

If you followed my blog last summer, you might remember me mentioning (maybe in every post) that we were in the middle of a severe drought. For those of you in this region of the world, you will know well what I mean. For the rest of you, this might help you to understand it. Clayton was born in September of 2010. By the time he reached he first birthday, he had only seen raindrops one single time. That is right - just once. 

Clayton's first puddle

We spend our time missing the rain and loving the rain and dreaming about the rain. We tell our children stories about the rain like others would tell about unicorns and fairies. And our little guys ask lots of questions...maybe at least in part because they cannot observe the phenomenon themselves.

But of course, little ones ask questions about the natural world anyway, no matter where they live. So, here is a wonderful project to help young children understand a little bit about the rain, even if they see it out their windows every day. (Instructions for this activity can be found at the EPA website here.)

We were fresh out of sand and small rocks. Since we usually take our dog for a walk to the playground most mornings, I just threw a few small containers in the stroller before we headed out. We gathered rocks slowly as we were walking to the park and then filled a second container from the sand area at the playground.

When we were ready to put our water cycle jar together, we layered our rocks on the bottom, poured in the sand we had collected, and added some potting soil. We dug up the smallest weed we could find from the back yard, being careful not to damage the roots. (Years of severe drought chased away any notion we might have had of more thoughtfully selected plants for our yard. In our yard, weeds reign.) We planted this tiny and quite pretty little thing in our jar, popped a milk jug cap filled with water next to it in the soil, and closed the lid tightly.

Being careful not to spill the water, we put the jar in the sunniest window in the house and left the room.

I was surprised at how quickly the water started to evaporate. We had condensation on the inside walls of the jar within twenty minutes of closing the lid. Since then, we have watched the water evaporate and more and more "clouds" form on the inside of the jar. It has been four days and there is still some water left in the cap.

I am not sure what will happen next. Will the water start to bead and roll down the sides of the jar into the soil? How long will it take for all of the water to evaporate? Would the cycle really continue to cycle once the cap is empty? If you have done this experiment before...or just remember your science better than I do, please do not give it away. This is apparently an experiment made to interest the grown-up set as well. Or maybe just me.


  1. So cool!! Can't wait to try it with Reece one of these days, thanks!

  2. This is great! I will throw some jars in the bag tomorrow to collect stuff on our walk. We have lots of rain, but the kiddos always love cool experiments. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hope you guys enjoy it. We always love science in our house!