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The Water Cycle and Clouds
from the Weather Smart Series
written and produced by...
Alan Sealls, Meteorologist
Produced and Distributed by...
1560 Sherman Avenue, Suite 100
Evanston, IL 60201
24-Hour Fax 847-328-6706
This video is the exclusive property of the copyright holder.
Copying, transmitting, or reproducing in any form, or by any
means, without prior written permission from the copyright holder is prohibited (Title 17, U.S. Code Sections 501 and 506).
©MMI Alan Sealls
Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Curriculum Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Program Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Series Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Teacher Preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Instructional Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Student Preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Student Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Introducing the Program . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Discussion Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Blackline Master Activities . . . . . . . . . . .7
Extended Learning Activities . . . . . . . . .8
Answer Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Reference Material . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
Script of Narration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
This video is closed captioned.
The purchase of this program entitles the user to the right to reproduce or duplicate, in whole or in part, this teacher’s guide and the
blackline master handouts that accompany it for the purpose of
teaching in conjunction with this program, THE WATER CYCLE
and CLOUDS. This right is restricted only for use with this program. Any reproduction or duplication in whole or in part of this
guide and the blackline master handouts for any purpose other than
for use with this program is prohibited.
This program is for instructional use. The cost of each program includes public performance rights as long as no
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The Water Cycle and Clouds
the Weather Smart Series
Weather Smart is a series comprised of 10 weather programs for grades 3-8. It is written and produced by Alan
Sealls, an award-winning meteorologist who has worked
for WGN-TV, and CNN. Each program is supported by
exercises, quizzes, Internet references, and hands-on
experiments to make the weather come alive to students.
The series is an entire "course" in the wonders of weather while each program stands alone in approaching the
various facets of meteorology. These delightful and entertaining programs are geared toward kids' fascination with
weather. Each program may be used as an introduction,
supplement, or follow-up to weather studies.
The Water Cycle and Clouds takes a look at one of the
most vital components of our ecosystem, water. This program highlights the unique properties of water and the
role it plays in forming clouds, generating weather, and
maintaining life. Experiments and demonstrations are
highlighted so that kids can easily duplicate to gain a
greater appreciation for water in all its forms. The program covers both the beneficial purposes and negative
hazards of water.
Weather Smart: The Water Cycle and Clouds correlates to the following science standards:
National Science Education Standards, grades K-4
Science as Inquiry
• Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
• Understanding about scientific inquiry
Physical Science
• Properties of objects and materials
• Position and motion of objects
• Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism
Life Science
• The characteristics of organisms
Earth and Space Science
• Properties of earth materials
• Objects in the sky
• Changes in earth and sky
Science and Technology
• Abilities of technological design
• Understanding about science and technology
Science in Personal & Social Perspectives
• Personal health
• Types of resources
• Changes in environments
• Science and technology in local challenges
History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor
National Science Education Standards, grades 5-8
Science as Inquiry
• Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
• Understanding about scientific inquiry
Physical Science
• Properties and changes of properties in matter
• Motions and forces
• Transfer of energy
Life Science
• Populations and ecosystems
Earth and Space Science
• Structure of the earth system
Science and Technology
• Abilities of technological design
• Understanding about science and technology
Science in Personal & Social Perspectives
• Personal health
• Natural hazards
• Risks and benefits
• Science and technology in society
History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor
• Nature of science
Beautiful footage of clouds and the sky show how water
continuously changes phase. The basic cloud types are
presented in vivid examples along with the many awesome colors that water makes in our sky, such as sunsets
and rainbows.
Students learn the fundamentals of condensation, evaporation, and precipitation, and how to recognize all of these
daily events. We see the various forms of precipitation
and how they are related to seasons. Terms such as liquid, solid, vapor, moisture, and humidity are used in
explaining how the water cycle is vital to life on Earth.
Students see how too much water causes problems such
as erosion or flooding. A true/false quiz is found at the end
of the program.
The Weather Smart series will give students the entire
scope of meteorology, fostering an appreciation for
weather as a universal, ever-present aspect of life on
• Varying combinations of heat, air, and water generate
• The sun is the driving force behind weather.
• Air and water have unique properties.
• Neither Earth nor life would exist as we know them without weather.
• Humans can affect weather or climate.
• Weather forecasts make our lives easier and safer.
• Tools and instruments help us to understand and predict
• Mathematics is needed to assess and forecast weather
and climate.
• Scientists do not fully know what makes weather and climate change.
• Weather and climate are cyclical.
• There is beauty in the sky.
• Meteorology is a wide-reaching profession.
Duplicate a sufficient quantity of the Blackline Masters
for your students. In order to undertake all of the exercises in this program the following items are needed in
appropriate amounts and quantities:
computer with Internet connection
kitchen scale
measuring cup
jar or drinking glass
cardboard sheet or construction paper
crayons or markers
Before presenting this Weather Smart lesson to your students, we suggest you preview the program and review
this guide and accompanying Blackline Master activities
in order to familiarize yourself with their content.
As you review the materials presented in this guide, you
may find it necessary to make changes, additions, or
deletions to meet the specific needs of your class. We
encourage you to do so, for only by tailoring this program
to your students will they obtain the maximum instructional benefits afforded by the materials.
We also suggest that the program viewing take place
before the entire group under your supervision. The lesson activities grow out of the context of the program;
therefore, the presentation should be a common experience for all students.
To gauge student level of understanding of the water
cycle and clouds, you may use any of several of the
Blackline Masters as both pre-test and post-test. Those
most appropriate would be Blackline Master 1, Video
Quiz, Blackline Master 3, Discussion Questions, and
Blackline Master 5, Quiz.
Have students gather around a counter. Pour water into a
cup. Let the students examine it. Ask them what they see,
where it came from, what makes it special. Have them
find ways to describe it to a visitor from a dry planet. Then,
take a few ice cubes and place them in another cup. Pass
it around so kids can get a closer look and so that the heat
from their hands will cause it to partially melt. Ask the
same questions you used for water. Leave both cups of
water, and ice on the counter for a few days and have students observe evaporation.
After viewing the program and participating in the followup activities, students should be able to...
• List the components of the water cycle.
• Identify cloud types.
• Demonstrate how floods occur.
• Read a rain gauge and measure rainfall.
• Desribe the role of the water cycle in Earth's ecosystem.
• Describe the properties of water in its different phases.
• List the different forms of precipitation.
• Create a basic rain gauge.
Either Blackline Master 7 or Blackline Master 8 may be
used to introduce the topic. Perform one experiment in
front of the class to pique curiosity and bring about discussion of how it relates to the water cycle. You may also
choose to have either of these experiments undertaken
by the class, in small groups.
Present the program. Weather Smart: The Water
Cycle and Clouds runs 15 minutes. A Video Quiz corresponding to Blackline Master 1 is at the conclusion of the
program. You may choose to pause the program for a
longer period between questions to allow more time for
answers or for discussion.
As printed on Blackline Master 3, the answers are found
in the Answer Key, beginning on page 9.
1. What would Earth be like without water?
2. How is water different from air?
3. What types of clouds make us wet?
4. What happens if too much rain or snow falls at once?
5. Where do clouds come from?
6. How do we get clean water to drink?
7. What are the different types of precipitation?
8. What is the difference between stratus clouds and cumulus clouds?
9. What are the three parts of the water cycle?
10. How do clouds help the Earth?
1. Video Quiz may be used as a pre-test and post-test.
The actual quiz is at the conclusion of the program.
2. Water Cycle and Cloud Vocabulary is a fun way to
familiarize students with the words associated with clouds
and the water cycle. Students may work in groups to find
the hidden words.
3. Discussion Questions may be administered at any
time or given as a take home assignment.
4. Make a Sentence allows kids to be creative. You might
also have them create a poem using each word.
5. Quiz can be used as a further measure of student comprehension or as a take-home assignment.
6. Read a Rain Gauge gives practice in reading a rain
gauge. It requires that you either shade in various values
for the water before duplication or write a value in the box
and then have students color in the height of the water.
7. Heavy Ice? illustrates that when water changes phase,
it does not change weight (Law of Conservation of Mass).
8. Flood in a Sponge is an easy way to see how floods
start, even from moderate rainfall.
9. Easy Rain Gauge allows students to practice taking
observations in measuring rainfall.
10. Dew from the Air shows that there is always water
vapor floating in air.
11. Sky Chart gives more opportunity to take weather
observations while highlighting the beauty in the sky.
12. Water Cycle and Cloud Fun Facts can be used as
trivia in a game show format or kids can share it with their
friends to show how weather smart they are.
13. Internet Sites takes kids beyond the lesson into further studies and adventures in water and clouds.
• Contact local businesses and agencies that are dependent on water resources. Your class may be allowed to visit
them to gain a local perspective. You might also assign
students to contact and arrange for a visit or interview.
• Meteorologists who work at a nearby office of the
National Weather Service or on TV or at a university can
discuss the water cycle and clouds.
• Your city's water or sewer department can explain how
people get clean water and where all the rainwater goes.
• Farmers can discuss the importance of water in their
profession, and perhaps show their own records of rainfall. Students might be surprised to see how much or how
little rain falls in your community each year.
• City planners can talk about the importance of expanding drainage creeks and rivers when new neighborhoods
or factories are built.
• Your forestry and fire departments may have good information on how the lack of rain creates hazards.
• A ski resort can explain and maybe demonstrate how
they make snow to supplement nature's snow. They can
share statistics on snowfall in your area.
1. Video Quiz
1. true
2. false
3. true
4. true
5. false
6. true
7. true
8. true
9. false
10. true
2. The Water Cycle & Clouds Vocabulary
3. Discussion Questions
1. Without water, Earth would be dry! There would be no
clouds, no rain, and no snow. There would be no life.
2. Water can exist in three different phases (liquid, solid,
or gas). Air only stays as a gas. Air can be squeezed
(compressed), water cannot.
3. The usual precipitation cloud is cumulonimbus. Other
clouds that can make us wet are thick stratus clouds and
large cumulus clouds. The true rain cloud was not covered in the material and that is a nimbostratus.
4. If too much rain falls at once, we get flooding. If too
much snow falls at once, human activities slow until it can
be moved.
5. Clouds come from water vapor that is already in the air.
6. Clean water in nature comes from rain or from underground springs. In most areas, water from lakes and
rivers is treated to make it drinkable.
7. Precipitation is rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
8. Stratus clouds are flat and stretched out. Cumulus
clouds are more rounded and tall.
9. The water cycle's components are evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
10. Clouds transport water in large quantities. They take
water to places where people, animals or plants use it. At
night they act like a blanket and keep cities from cooling
down as much. During the day they can block the sun to
keep cities from getting too hot.
5. Quiz
1. stratus
2. rainbow
3. precipitation
4. water
5. erosion
6. cumulonimbus
7. water cycle
8. cirrus
9. evaporation
10. humidity
6. Read a Rain Gauge
Answers will depend upon how high you shade the
gauges. The units are inches. You might modify the exercise to where you give the students a rain amount and
have them shade the rain gauge.
7. Heavy Ice?
When the ice melts, the scale shows no difference in
weight. When water changes phase the weight does not
change. Over the course of a few days, as the water
evaporates the scale will show a lower number.
8. Flood in a Sponge
Water poured slowly over a sponge will eventually saturate the sponge and then spill off of it. This is analogous
to a long period of steady rain causing saturated soil and
slow flooding. Water that is poured fast will spill off of the
sponge before all of it gets a chance to soak into the
sponge. This is analogous to a flash flood where the rate
of rainfall causes rapid flooding.
9. Easy Rain Gauge
Answer depends upon your rainfall. This method of rain
measurement is by volume. It shows that water can be
measured by volume although depth-measurement is
most common.
10. Dew from the Air
Condensation forms on the outside of the jar. The water
droplets came from the air. Note that in very dry climates
or buildings, or when the air is very cold, no condensation
may appear. In these cases, the experiment should be
performed in a humid area such as in a kitchen while food
is being prepared.
11. Sky Chart
Colors and changes in colors will depend upon your environment.
13. Internet Sites
Federal Emergency Management Agency kids section
Learn more about floods and how to be safe from them.
American Red Cross flood safety
Make sure you know what to do when floods happen.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo
Search over 10,000 pictures for clouds of all shapes and
National Geophysical Data Center online flood quiz
See if you are weather smart when it comes to floods and
other bad weather.
NASA atmospheric infrared sounder
This new instrument from NASA will help study clouds
and the water cycle. Click on education to learn more
about clouds and the water cycle and what this new
instrument does.
As Internet addresses can change, you may have to use
a search engine to find the title of the page or website
that you are seeking. You may also have luck by going
to the host website URL. For example, if you are looking
for and you get a
message that the page is no longer available, then try and look or search for weather and
then cloud or something that sounds similar.
National Weather Service educators resource links
Locate people in your area who can assist in weather and
flooding education efforts.
Environment Canada weather Information
Search this website for an online cloud chart. You will also
find weather for Canada along with good resource information for ozone, storms, and pollution.
NASA Earth Science Enterprise Image Gallery
A fantastic collection of images where you can see pic12
tures of clouds, storms, hurricanes and other weather features.
Project DataStreme
This data-sharing project allows your rainfall measurements to go beyond your classroom.
The GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observations
to Benefit the Environment)
An international data-sharing project between elementary
schools gives another way for kids to see how the water
cycle affects other areas.
Find many more cloud and water cycle experiments and
simple designs for weather instruments in the "Hands on
Weather" programs, also distributed by United Learning.
Comments, suggestions, or questions regarding this
Weather Smart program should be addressed to the producer, Alan Sealls ([email protected]).
Fun Facts are derived in part from information available
at Colorado State University
(, and Health
Canada (
Water falls from the sky as rain or snow. It sits on the
ground in puddles. We see it on grass early in the morning as dew. When you look at Earth from a satellite in
space, you see that most of it is covered with water in the
oceans. Look closer and you will see big lakes and rivers.
Over the land and over the oceans, we see clouds, and in
many places that are cold, we see snow. The clouds and
snow are made of water too so water is everywhere.
People use water to drink and to stay clean. Plants use
water to grow. Without water we would not be able to live.
Water is called a liquid because you can pour it and it will
change shape. If you put it in a glass, it takes the same
shape as the glass. If you pour it on the ground, it spreads
out and becomes flat. Liquids can move and change
If you pour water into an ice tray and put it in a freezer,
you can turn it into ice. When water turns into ice, we call
it a solid. A solid is something that is hard and does not
change shape. You can touch it and see it, but even if you
put it into a glass, it still keeps the same shape. Put it on
a counter and it also stays the same. Of course, if you let
ice stay out long enough, it will melt and become water
But what happens when you leave water out for a long
time? It disappears. Where does it go? Into the air.
Invisible water that floats in the air is called water vapor.
We also call it moisture, or humidity. You can't see water
vapor, but sometimes you can feel it when the air is warm
and sticky. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cold
air. When the tiny droplets leave the water to float into the
air, we call that evaporation.
Once evaporation lets water vapor float in the air, the
water is not a liquid anymore because you can't pour it.
It's not a solid because you can't see it. Now, it's called a
gas. A gas is something that you can't see or touch and it
floats with air.
Water is very special because it can be a solid, like ice; a
liquid, like rain; or a gas, like water vapor.
Even in the driest parts of the world, there is water vapor.
Wind spreads it around the planet. It's in the air and you
don't see it until it makes clouds. When you get enough
water vapor together, it grows and forms clouds. Weather
forecasters call this condensation.
Condensation happens when invisible water in the air
grows large enough for us to see. Put a cold glass on a
table and watch it. You'll see water droplets grow on the
outside of glass. These water droplets came from water
vapor in the air.
This happens on clear, quiet mornings when you see dew
on the grass. When the dew forms, use a thermometer to
read the temperature, then you know what the dew point
temperature is. The dew point temperature just tells you
how cold the air has to be for condensation to make dew.
When the air is very cold, instead of seeing dew, you
might see frost.
In the morning, you can tell dew apart from rain because
rain makes everything wet. Dew will only wet cars,
rooftops, grass, and a few other things. Dew comes from
moisture in the air. Rain comes from clouds.
Clouds make rain, snow, sleet, or hail. All of these are
called precipitation. Precipitation is any kind of water that
falls from the clouds. In the winter, cold clouds make snow
and sleet. In the summer, clouds make rain because the
air is warm, but if the cloud is very tall, it might reach high
enough into the sky where the temperature is cold, and
then make hail. Hail is small pieces of ice that fall from tall
Precipitation, evaporation, and condensation are always
happening over and over. These three things never stop,
so we call it the water cycle. The water cycle has no
beginning and no end.
Precipitation falls to the ground and makes puddles.
Some of the water goes into streams and rivers and then
to the oceans. The sun heats Earth to make evaporation
happen. That's when water turns into invisible water
vapor. Wind moves the water vapor around as condensation turns it back into clouds. When the clouds get too full,
the precipitation starts again.
The water cycle makes sure that there is always water
moving around the world. Even when we can't see water
and even when it is frozen into snow or ice, the water
cycle takes moisture everywhere.
The part of the water cycle that we always see is the
beautiful clouds. They float above our heads in all
shapes, sizes and colors. Sometimes they are so gentle
that we don't really notice them, but other times they grow
so large that you just can't miss them.
There are four kinds of clouds: cirrus, stratus, cumulus,
and cumulonimbus.
Cirrus clouds are very high thin clouds. They are so thin
that you can see the sun or the moon right through them.
They can be more than five miles, or eight kilometers,
above the ground - that's higher than where most airplanes fly. Cirrus clouds are gentle, soft and feathery.
They are not thick enough to make precipitation; so when
you see them, you know that the weather is calm.
Stratus clouds are lower clouds that are flat, stretched
out, and gray. They can cover the whole sky and hide the
sun. Stratus clouds can make rain or snow. Sometimes
they stay for more than a day. If they stay for a long time,
you might get a lot of rain or a lot of snow. They might also
make very light rain called drizzle. In the winter, stratus
clouds can make light snow called flurries. When they
block the sun, stratus clouds keep you from getting warm.
A special kind of stratus cloud is fog. Fog is a cloud that
is close to the ground. If you ever want to know what a
cloud feels like, just go outside on a foggy day. You can't
feel the cloud, but you will feel the moisture. It will make
the air damp. Sometimes fog is only a few feet, or meters,
thick. Other times, it can be thousands of feet or thousands of meters thick and cause problems because drivers can't see very well and airplanes can't take off or land.
Fog happens a lot in some places where you have water.
Cumulus clouds are fluffy and puffy and they grow tall.
They look like cotton balls as they bubble up into the air.
Small cumulus clouds with lots of space in between them
tell us the weather will be nice. The larger and taller
cumulus clouds make rain showers, or snow showers if it
is cold enough. The showers usually don't last very long.
When cumulus clouds make lightning, thunder and heavy
rain they are called cumulonimbus. The cumulonimbus is
the tallest cloud. Sometimes it can reach more than ten16
miles, or 16 kilometers, high. It's the cloud that makes
thunderstorms. When you see a cumulonimbus cloud,
you have to make sure that you are safe from lightning,
and from the heavy rain. Cumulonimbus clouds can make
a lot of rain in one spot to start a flood. Floods are dangerous to people. Floods also wash away soil and we call
that erosion. You can do an experiment using sponges
and a spray bottle to show that when rain falls slowly the
ground is able to soak it up but when it falls too fast the
ground can't hold all of it and it rises to make a flood.
Always stay away from floodwater.
Clouds are part of the water cycle. They help the Earth by
moving water around. When clouds get thick, they block
the sun and keep us cool in the daytime. At night, thick
clouds act like a blanket over the Earth and help to keep
us warm.
Clouds come from condensation. You can make your own
cloud in a jar. Just fill the jar with warm water, cover it with
plastic, and then put an ice cube on top of the plastic.
Look closely inside the jar and after a while, you'll see
condensation making a cloud.
Many of us make clouds and don't even notice it. The next
time you take a shower, look around the bathroom to see
what is floating in the air. When you get out of the shower look at the mirror. What do you see?
One of the trickiest parts of forecasting the weather is
knowing when a cloud will start to make rain. You can
practice with your friends by using a cotton ball, water and
an eyedropper. Count how many water drops the cotton
ball can hold before the water starts falling out. Then try it
again with another cotton ball. Do you get the same number? Probably not, because no two clouds are the same.
The nice thing about clouds and the water cycle is that
when you add sunlight to them, you see many pretty
shapes and colors.
Cumulus clouds are bright and crisp when they are away
from you but when they are over you, they look dark
because the cloud blocks the sunlight.
When rain ends in the afternoon and the sun comes out
you might see a rainbow. Look for a curve of colors in the
sky. The rainbow tells you that the rain is over.
Cirrus clouds also make something that looks like a rainbow. It's a ring around the sun called a halo. Most people
don't notice them because they don't take the time to stop
and look up into the sky. Sometimes on the sides of the
halo you'll see two bright spots that have a lot of color.
These are called sun dogs.
At sunset, all of the different clouds help to show magnificent colors. We can see red, orange, yellow, purple and
sometimes other colors. Without clouds and the water
cycle we would have a pretty boring sky.
The clouds are nature's way of giving us art. Enjoy the
water cycle and stay weather smart.
Now that you are clear on clouds let's take a quiz.
Number one- Cumulus clouds are puffy clouds that look
like cotton.
Number two- Sometimes the water cycle stops.
Number three- Invisible water in the air is called vapor.
Number four- Fog is a cloud that's near the ground.
Number five- Clouds are bad for the Earth.
Number six- Too much rain can make floods.
Number seven- Evaporation is when water disappears
into the air.
Number eight- Rain and snow are precipitation.
Number nine- Cirrus clouds make thunderstorms.
Number ten- When you see water on the outside of a
glass, that's condensation.