Next week, my class will be learning about the water cycle. Because this is something they are usually pretty familiar with by 4th, we are focusing on a few vocabulary words, doing some observations, a super fun simulation game, and a journal activity.
I absolutely adore the water cycle simulation game. There are several free versions of this on the web, but my favorite is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You put up signs in different parts of your room for lake, soil, river, plants, ocean, etc. Each station has a cube to roll. Students travel through the water cycle as a drop of water.
I draw out a pretty amateur map of the classroom with where each station is and have the students draw a line from station to station. For example, if they go from lake to clouds to glacier then glacier, then ocean, they draw a line from lake to clouds to glacier, then draw a tally mark for glacier, then draw a line to ocean.
I've also had them fill out a chart with the reasons they traveled from place to place. There's many ways to record it, but I think it's important that they record where they traveled in order to make generalizations.
After the activity, I have them look for any patterns or things they noticed and record it. Then, they look for patterns in their groups.
We talk about the patterns as a class to form generalizations (e.g. you may stay in a glacier a long time because the water stays frozen OR you may never visit plants because the drop of water spends more time in clouds and the ocean.)
Write about it!
You can print off station signs and cubes for free here.