Earth Science Week Classroom Activities


Activity Source:

Adapted with permission by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Water moves from Earth’s surface to the atmosphere and then returns to the surface. This process is nearly always depicted in water cycle diagrams by arrows drawn in a circular direction.

However, the actual path water may take in its cycle is far more complicated. In this activity, you will discover multiple cycles by acting as water molecules and traveling through parts of the overall water cycle. In the end, your water cycle will look nothing like the conceptual model but will represent a more realistic cycle.



  1. Take a die and a worksheet. Station yourself and your classmates in various portions of the water cycle as follows.
  2. See that one-half of students are at the Oceans station. Evenly spread the remaining students across the other stations, except for the Plants station, which should start off with no one stationed there.
  3. Circle your starting location on your worksheet.
  4. Roll your die. Based on the number rolled, the student turns the car over to determine your progress in the water cycle.
  5. If told to move, draw an arrow on your worksheet from your starting location to your current position. Label that arrowhead with a number 1. Then move to your new location.
  6. If told to stay, place a number 1 inside your drawn circle.
  7. Roll your die again.
  8. If told to move, draw an arrow on your worksheet from your current location to your new position. Label that arrowhead with a number 2. Then move to your new location.
  9. If told to stay, write a number 2 at your current location.
  10. Repeat the roll-and-move procedure up to 10 times total.


Most of the students in your class should have traveled to several stations and completed some sort of cycle. Some may have traveled through most of the water cycle, while others have moved very little. There also may be a student or two who remained in the ocean through all 10 turns.

If 100,000 people represented all water on Earth, where would they be located?

Water Source Total Water (%) Number of people
Oceans 97.24 97,240
Glaciers & Snows 2.14 2,140
Aquifers 0.61 610
Rivers & Lakes 0.017 17
Ground 0.005 5
Atmosphere (w/clouds) 0.001 1
Plants 0 0

While this exercise is meant to be somewhat realistic, it is actually far more complicated to leave the ocean via evaporation, since nearly all of Earth’s water is confined to oceans. To truly represent the water cycle, we would need about 100,000 people located at each station, as seen in the table. Not only would there be over 97,000 people who represented the ocean, it would take nearly 3,600 rolls of the die before just one person moved to the Atmosphere station via evaporation. This exercise also does not take into consideration human and animal interactions with the water cycle. The water humans and animals consume is stored and eliminated, or it evaporates (via perspiration).

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