The Water Cycle - 5E & NGSS MS-ESS2-4 & MS-LS2-1

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    Storyline Summary - Order of Activities, Phenomena & Formative Assessments
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    1. Launch student learning into the water cycle and our impact on Earth’s water resources (like non-point source and microplastic pollution) with this student-driven storyline bundle. Your storyline will unfold differently depending upon the Anchor Experience(s) you choose to utilize and/or lead with!
      Price $55.00Original Price $87.50Save $32.50


    Develop student understanding of the water cycle and Earth’s water resources through an engaging, student-driven storyline that aligns to the NGSS and incorporates three-dimensional exploration and discovery! 

    This Bundle Includes:

    1 Water Resources & Environmental Problems - Science Literature Circles

    Engage students in an interdisciplinary experience that opens the door to exploring a myriad of water issues. You can connect this anchor experience to any water resources phenomenon that aligns to your curriculum through your selection of trade books and texts.

    In this Anchor Experience, students take on the role of publishing company editors, evaluating the next great science trade book and exploring issues related to Earth’s water resources - and our human impact on them - in the process. Utilizing the English-Language Arts strategy of literature circles, students analyze texts in order to familiarize themselves with a variety of water issues and generate questions to investigate throughout the student-driven storyline.

    After receiving their task in this Anchor Experience, students break into groups to read, synthesize through their Literature Circle Roles, and then discuss science trade books related to Earth’s water resources. The detailed teacher lesson guide includes recommendations for relevant trade books, but really, any narrative text can be utilized in this task. The guide also provides several ways to adapt the activity to accommodate limitations related to grouping, book variety, and copies of texts. 

    This strategy (literature circles) can be repeated with any unit storyline, so you can reuse this resource again and again. The literature circle structure and provided graphic organizers are not topic-specific and therefore can be used throughout the school year in any number of storylines. In fact, the more often students engage with this strategy, the better at it they will become!

    2 The Water Cycle - A Drop In The Desert (NGSS MS-ESS2-4)

    In this explore and explain sequence, students identify where water can be "found" in the desert by participating in a "reader's theater" activity and analyzing the story.  Then, students participate in a simulation where they move through the water cycle as a molecule of water, tracking how they move and in what state of matter.  They use this information to develop their understanding of the ways energy from the sun and gravity drive the movement of water through Earth's systems.  They reinforce this understanding through a vocabulary activity.  Finally, they apply their understanding to develop a model of the water cycle to explain the phenomenon of a flash flood in 2017. 

    3 Investigating Dead Zones - Aquatic Ecosystems, Eutrophication, & Pollution

    Investigate what may be responsible for the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone! Launch a unit into aquatic ecosystems, the water cycle, and environmental issues. After introducing the concept of dead zones, students 

    • examine clues to develop a preliminary explanation for the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone and the factors at play
    • Through this process, students will ask questions about algal blooms and their role in hypoxic environments.

    This activity is designed as an investigative phenomenon with the purpose of developing preliminary understandings and sparking questions that students will investigate throughout the unit storyline. However, this activity could also be used as an assessment, as students use new understandings to explain the clues and how they serve as evidence for the cause of the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.

    4 Watershed Model Building - Agricultural Pollution & Dead Zones

    Understand watersheds and how pollutants can impact distant waterways through this hands-on, model-building activity. In this activity, students will create a watershed model to understand how nutrients from farms in the Midwest are responsible for dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. They will 

    • explore a generic model of a watershed by observing how water flows down a mountain constructed from cardstock
    • examine an elevation map of the United States to create their own accurate models of the Mississippi River Basin
    • collect evidence to support their explanation of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico (the investigative phenomenon)

    5 Water Cycle Models, Urban Runoff, & Water Pollution

    Engage students in learning about the water cycle through the real-world context of runoff in urban environments. Students will build a physical model to explore how runoff is generated by evaporation and precipitation and apply their understanding to a serious environmental problem -- the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Students will:

    • develop a physical model to observe evaporation, precipitation, and runoff
    • use a simulation to observe particle motion in each state of matter to better understand evaporation and precipitation
    • return to their model to investigate how nutrients move from land to waterways and impact water quality, focusing their attention on the relationship between agricultural pollution and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico
    • This activity puts the water cycle in context as students develop their understanding of the role of water cycle processes in the movement of nutrients from farms in the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. 

    This activity ties closely to How Do Pollutants Move Through Watersheds?, in which students investigate watersheds, the movement of nutrients within the Mississippi River Basin, and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

    6 Energy and Matter in the Water Cycle (NGSS MS-ESS2-4)

    In this elaborate set of activities, students explore the movement of energy through the water cycle by investigating what happens to energy during evaporation and condensation. This activity is designed to follow The Water Cycle: A Drop In The Desert and can be paired with The Water Cycle: Using Scientific Texts.

    7 Resource Availability: Exploring Water Resources In The Desert (NGSS MS-LS2-1)

    In this explore and explain activity bundle (three activities!), students first rotate through stations at which they examine data to draw connections between resource availability (specifically the availability of water) and the growth of organisms and populations.  Then, students interact with a text to understand indicators of cause and effect relationships.  They create claims about cause and effect relationships, using evidence obtained in the first activity, and evaluate their claims in light of the cause-and-effect indicators.  Finally, students use a card sort to connect events and phenomenon and identify what evidence would be necessary to establish and support claims of causal relationships between the events.

    8 The Water Cycle: Using Scientific Texts (NGSS MS-ESS2-4)

    In this elaborate activity, students read a scientific text adapted for classroom use to obtain information about shrinking glaciers in Asia. They answer analysis questions to determine the purpose, methods, and results of the investigations and connect the studies to the DCI, and then they complete one of two graphic organizers to examine how the "lens" through which phenomena are examined can impact our understanding.

    9 Groundwater and Water Scarcity (NGSS MS-ESS2-4, MS-ESS3-1)

    In this elaborate activity, students explore the distribution of water on Earth, the availability of groundwater in the United States, and how aquifers work by building a model to examine withdrawal and recharge. The focus phenomenon is on water scarcity and shortage issues in the southwestern United States - specifically the Mojave River and Morongo groundwater basins.

    10 Exploring Groundwater and Aquifers (NGSS MS-ESS3-1) (5E Model Explore & Explain)

    Develop student understanding of the distribution of groundwater resources (and their limited nature) by analyzing data and designing and participating in an engineering design challenge in which they design and construct an aquifer. In this lesson, students understand why groundwater isn’t found just anywhere and realize the importance of this limited resource. In this activity, students will:

    • map the distribution of groundwater
    • design and construct an aquifer to understand how they work and what makes “good ground” for groundwater resources
    • make sense of and document their findings through guided questioning and science notebooking
    • clarify and reinforce understanding through web resources and explanation-tasks

    You may find some overlap among the groundwater-related tasks. Incorporate the tasks that meet your students’ learning needs, as these have been included primarily as extension opportunities and engaging ways to integrate additional Science and Engineering Practices. 

    11 Water Wars In The Mojave - Using Scientific Texts - Distance Learning

    In this elaborate activity, students read two short texts that propose counter-arguments to the issue of withdrawing water from the Fenner Basin in the Cadiz Valley. Students answer questions while they read, use a graphic organizer to evaluate the arguments and the evidence provided by each author, and assess the situation through the Crosscutting Concept lens of Stability and Change using an additional graphic organizer.

    12 Water Cycle & Water Resources Assessment (MS-ESS2-4, MS-LS2-1)

    In this NGSS-aligned, 3D performance task, students are given a phenomenon via text and develop a model of the water cycle in the Mojave Desert. They then analyze data (MS-LS2-1) to evaluate the effects of a change in the availability of a resource (water) on the growth and reproduction of organisms and populations (desert tortoises). This assessment connects to both Earth (water cycle) and life (resource availability) science topics. 

    How can this lesson be used?

    • engage students in investigating Earth’s water resources and the water cycle in this phenomenon-based, NGSS-aligned storyline unit
    • integrate life science concepts into an Earth-science focused unit to better understand the integrated natural world

    How much class time will this take?

    • This unit will likely take 2-3 weeks depending upon how quickly your students work and whether or not all activities are utilized. 

    Is this NGSS-aligned?

    This resource is part of a storyline (Organisms And Their Environments) designed to work toward the tagged Next Generation Science Standards. Because Performance Expectations are designed to assess learning by the end of the grade band, unit material may not fully assess every Performance Expectation tagged in the post. This bundle does not include the entire Organisms And Their Environments storyline.

    • MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses result in changes in weather conditions. (fully assessed)
    • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. (fully assessed)
    • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
    • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
    • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

    ⭐️ What Other Teachers Are Saying ⭐️

    ⭐️ "I love how these embrace the true meaning of NGSS! Thanks for all the hard work. These are great at getting kids to THINK for themselves while you as the teacher facilitate their learning.”

    ⭐️ "A great resource for discussing water and water issues.”

    What if I have questions?

    You can email me at with questions about resources or implementation. I'm happy to help!

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    Copyright © 2019 iExploreScience LLC. All pages of this product are copyrighted, and all rights are reserved by the author. You may not create anything to sell or share based on this packet. The product is created for the use of ONE teacher. Please do not share with colleagues. If they like the product, please send them to my TpT store. I appreciate your support with this request! You are permitted to share ONLY the cover image of this product on your blog or via social media as long as you link back to my product on TpT. Failure to comply is a copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Clipart and elements found in this PDF are copyrighted and cannot be extracted and used outside of this file without permission or license. Intended for classroom and personal use ONLY.

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    to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
    Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. Emphasis is on how these resources are limited and typically non-renewable, and how their distributions are significantly changing as a result of removal by humans. Examples of uneven distributions of resources as a result of past processes include but are not limited to petroleum (locations of the burial of organic marine sediments and subsequent geologic traps), metal ores (locations of past volcanic and hydrothermal activity associated with subduction zones), and soil (locations of active weathering and/or deposition of rock).
    Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. Emphasis is on the ways water changes its state as it moves through the multiple pathways of the hydrologic cycle. Examples of models can be conceptual or physical. A quantitative understanding of the latent heats of vaporization and fusion is not assessed.


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