New York’s Urban Ecosystem Lessons
Students will go outdoors to observe and document the water cycle in motion where they live. Students will also discover how they and their community impact not only the movement of water through the cycle, but also the water quality.
- Describe the movement of water through the water cycle.
- Understand that water changes states when it gains energy from the sun or loses energy to the environment.
- Understand that gravity causes water to move downhill and to precipitate from the clouds.
- Create a model of the water cycle using the original pictures of water in the act of precipitating, infiltrating, condensing, running off, evaporating and transpiring.
Materials and Resources
- sticky notes (one pad per group)
- colored markers
- projector cameras
- buckets of water (if weather is uncooperative)
- water sprayers (if weather is uncooperative)
- printed student photographs and poster board/paper OR presentation software (e.g. Prezi, PowerPoint)
Before you get started
Tips for Teachers
Students will take their own photographs and then construct a water cycle diagram. If you plan on printing out the pictures and having the students arrange them on posterboard, you could consider having groups of 4-5. If the students will be using digital photographs arranged on something like Powerpoint or Prezi you should consider having students work in pairs. Consider whether you want a standard water cycle diagram available for students to look at any point in this lesson.
- Ask students the following questions:
- What is precipitation?
- What types of precipitation are there?
- What types of precipitation do we experience living here in NYC?
- Which state is water in for each type of precipitation you named?
- Students will go outdoors and become water cycle sleuths. Students use a camera to capture water moving through the water cycle. For example, they are to catch water in the act of precipitating, running downhill, infiltrating, etc.
- Students will also photograph any human impacts on the water cycle. For example, students could photograph (or possibly stage) litter that could get caught up in runoff.
- Ideally, students will have the opportunity to work outside on a day when it is raining, has just rained, or when snow is melting. If the weather is uncooperative, students can bring out water sprayers and buckets of water to simulate rain falling over different surfaces.
- Divide students into small groups. Give each group a camera and a Photograph Record Worksheet.
- Go outdoors! Define the students’ work area.
- Students work as a team to get the pictures they need and they fill out the Photograph Record Worksheet as they take each photograph. See examples below.
- Bring students back together. Ask the groups which part(s) of the water cycle they have been unable to photograph.
- Brainstorm as a class how to obtain the images they need. For example, students may suggest drawing a picture or using photoshop to depict evaporation or transpiration. (See Teacher Resources for links to simple transpiration activities.)
- This lesson is an opportunity to introduce or reinforce the concept of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).
- Water that doesn’t evaporate or infiltrate becomes surface water runoff. Surface water may flow over the ground surface or enter storm drains. Water captured by storm drains flows downhill through sewer pipes (downhill direction determined by the pipe orientation) into a wastewater treatment plant. Stormwater shares these pipes with raw sewage (also called the sanitary sewer). The stormwater is treated and then discharged into the nearest body of water. However, when the sewer system becomes overwhelmed with storm water, both the raw sewage and storm water flow directly into the nearest body of water through combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls. This means that almost every time it rains we have raw sewage flowing into our harbor.
- Students can take additional photos or create additional drawings in order to fill any gaps in their water cycle.
- Discuss the following with the class:
- Did we leave any parts of the water cycle out?
- When water isn’t in the process of evaporating, condensing, etc., where is it?
- Identify the places water “rests”/is stored (harbor, rivers, puddles, clouds, plants, etc.) within the cycle.
- Where do freezing (snow/glaciers) and melting fit in the water cycle?
- Where do dew and fog fit in the water cycle?
- Where does the water that the plants transpire come from?
- Should we include capillary action as a force in the water cycle?
- Students will create a New York City Water Cycle model utilizing their photographs. Students can use PowerPoint, Prezi, or printed photographs and poster board to create their models. Each group should have one complete set of photographs to work with.
- To begin, students label each photograph with the part of the water cycle (or human impact) it represents. This activity can serve as an evaluation of students’ comfort with water cycle vocabulary.
- Ask students to think about what makes water move through the water cycle. Why doesn’t the water just stay in the same state and in the same place forever? Give groups time to discuss amongst themselves.
- If students have a difficult time figuring out gravity and sunlight are responsible for water’s movement, show them a standard water cycle diagram and have them to look for clues.
- Students’ water cycle models should include all parts of the water cycle (processes and “resting” places); show the multiple paths water takes through the water cycle in New York City; and convey the idea that gravity and energy from the sun drives water’s movement through the cycle.
CCLS - ELA Science & Technical Subjects
- Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
- Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
- Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
- Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
- Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
NYC Science Scope & Sequence - Units
Grade 6, Unit 2
- Weather and Atmosphere
NYS Science Standards - Major Understandings
- During a phase change, heat energy is absorbed or released. Energy is absorbed when a solid changes to a liquid and when a liquid changes to a gas. Energy is released when a gas changes to a liquid and when a liquid changes to a solid.