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Water, Water, Everywhere

National Weather Service

This classroom demonstration illustrates the amount of water stored in various parts of the Earth system in a straightforward manner. Students estimate the proportions of water in the oceans, icecaps and glaciers, groundwater, freshwater lakes, inland seas, soil moisture, atmosphere, and rivers. Then they fill beakers with the actual proportion and discuss what elements of the activity were surprising to them. Information on flash floods and flood preparedness and safety are included.

This learning activity takes approximately 20 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

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Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This teacher-based demonstration could be flipped around into a student-driven investigation.
  • The 'fast facts' in the sidebar are quantitative and thought-provoking. Did you know the 48 contiguous United States receives a total volume of about four cubic miles (6.4 cubic km) of precipitation each day?

About the Content

  • The activity begins with predicting and understanding the proportion of water in different places. This makes an abstract concept into a quantitative one.
  • Then, a class discussion focuses on how little water is found in rivers and the atmosphere and how we can keep our drinking water safe. The activity concludes with a discussion of flood safety.
  • This activity is not directly related to climate change, but is part of overall climate literacy in terms of understanding earth systems, freshwater resources, the cryosphere, and flood hazards.
  • Note that the proportion of water stored in ice sheets is decreasing, therefore an updated data source might be helpful. Here is a 2016 source, from the USGS: https://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthwherewater.html
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Teaches students how to use volumetric principals
    - Demonstrates the amount of water belonging to each source of water on the planet
    - Provides "weathewise" and safety information about weather events
    Note: I did not find a link to the data both listed in the fast facts section and the percentages table. Not sure which year this data was gathered from.

About the Pedagogy

  • This simple activity provides a hands-on explanation of the water reservoirs within the water cycle to supplement the typical graph or chart on freshwater sources on Earth.
  • Activity could be used as an engagement 'hook' as a lead-in to any water-related topic.
  • For higher grade levels, students can do the unit conversion on their own and calculate how many milliliters of water to put in each beaker.
  • For a lab setting, groups of students can have their own beakers to fill up.
  • Visual learners might appreciate a pie chart or other graphic as a way of representing the scale of water in different reservoirs.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • This is a very simple and intuitive activity.
  • If there is no access to water or beakers, the activity could be replicated by coloring in beakers on the white board.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Entered the Collection: August 2018 Last Reviewed: July 2018

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