Getting Started

Far from static rocks and minerals, water remains the most influential Earth Science system that we experience every day, since it influences our energy, vegetation, biology, climate, and weather patterns. You’ll get to learn about the important connections between the water systems of earth and the sun, whose energy powers the water cycle and climate.

This section of Earth Science focuses on the interaction of water in the atmosphere on the physical phenomena we experience, often as weather. Because the majority of the earth’s surface is water, it has a huge influence on our lives and the dynamic systems of the planet. Far from static rocks and minerals, water remains the most influential Earth Science system that we experience every day, since it influences our energy, vegetation, biology, climate, and weather patterns. Students will  form important connections between the water systems of earth and the sun, whose energy powers the water cycle and climate.

Here are the scientific concepts:

  • Most of the Earth’s water is present as salt water in the oceans, which cover most of the Earth’s surface.
  • When liquid water evaporates, it turns into water vapor in the air and can reappear as a liquid when cooled, or as a solid if cooled below the freezing point of water.
  • Water moves in the air from one place to another in the form of clouds or fog, which are tiny droplets of water or ice, and falls to the Earth as rain, hail, sleet, or snow.
  • The amount of fresh water, located in rivers, lakes, underground sources, and glaciers, is limited, and its availability can be extended through recycling and decreased use.
  • Uneven heating of the Earth causes air movements (convection currents).
  • The influence of the ocean on weather, and the role of the water cycle in weather.
  • Causes and effects of different types of severe weather.
  • How to use weather maps and weather forecasts to predict local weather, and that prediction depends on many changing variables. Video and experiment coming soon
  • The Earth’s atmosphere exerts a pressure that decreases with distance above the Earth’s surface, and is the same in all directions.
  • Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine patterns of weather.

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • How to record data and interpret results
  • How to measure rainfall, wind speed, temperature, and atmospheric pressure
  • Demonstrate how air pressure influences an object in relation to moving air
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the weight, length and volume of objects.
  • Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.
  • Construct and interpret graphs from measurements.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Special Science Teleclass: Thermodynamics
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too! You’ll discover how to boil water at room temperature, heat up ice to freeze it, make a fire water balloon, and build a real …Continue reading”Special Science Teleclass: Thermodynamics”
Instant Ice
Supercooling a liquid is a really neat way of keeping the liquid a liquid below the freezing temperature. Normally, when you decrease the temperature of water below 32oF, it turns into ice. But if you do it gently and slowly enough, it will stay a liquid, albeit a really cold one! In nature, you’ll find …Continue reading”Instant Ice”
Hot Ice Sculptures
Did you know that supercooled liquids need to heat up in order to freeze into a solid? It’s totally backwards, I know…but it’s true! Here’s the deal: A supercooled liquid is a liquid that you slowly and carefully bring down the temperature below the normal freezing point and still have it be a liquid. We …Continue reading”Hot Ice Sculptures”
Making Clouds
Indoor Rain Clouds Making indoor rain clouds demonstrates the idea of temperature, the measure of how hot or cold something is. Here’s how to do it: Take two clear glasses that fit snugly together when stacked. (Cylindrical glasses with straight sides work well.) Fill one glass half-full with ice water and the other half-full with …Continue reading”Making Clouds”
Taking the Salt out of the Ocean
This experiment is for advanced students.Have you ever taken a gulp of the ocean? Seawater can be extremely salty! There are large quantities of salt dissolved into the water as it rolled across the land and into the sea. Drinking ocean water will actually make you thirstier (think of eating a lot of pretzels). So …Continue reading”Taking the Salt out of the Ocean”
Can Fish Drown?
If you’ve ever owned a fish tank, you know that you need a filter with a pump. Other than cleaning out the fish poop, why else do you need a filter? (Hint: think about a glass of water next to your bed. Does it taste different the next day?) There are tiny air bubbles trapped …Continue reading”Can Fish Drown?”
Convection Currents
Every time I’m served a hot bowl of soup or a cup of coffee with cream I love to sit and watch the convection currents. You may look a little silly staring at your soup but give it a try sometime! Convection is a little more difficult to understand than conduction. Heat is transferred by …Continue reading”Convection Currents”
Food Dye Currents
When something feels hot to you, the molecules in that something are moving very fast. When something feels cool to you, the molecules in that object aren’t moving quite so fast. Believe it or not, your body perceives how fast molecules are moving by how hot or cold something feels. Your body has a variety …Continue reading”Food Dye Currents”
Magnetic Tornadoes
This lab is a physical model of what happens on Mercury when two magnetic fields collide and form magnetic tornadoes. You’ll get to investigate what an invisible magnetic tornado looks like when it sweeps across Mercury. Materials Two clear plastic bottles (2 liter soda bottles work best) Steel washer with a 3/8 inch hole Ruler …Continue reading”Magnetic Tornadoes”
Special Science Teleclass: Flying Machines
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too! Soar, zoom, fly, twirl, and gyrate with these amazing hands-on classes which investigate the world of flight. Students created flying contraptions from paper airplanes …Continue reading”Special Science Teleclass: Flying Machines”
Sneaky Bottles
This experiment illustrates that air really does take up space! You can’t inflate the balloon inside the bottle without the holes, because it’s already full of air. When you blow into the bottle with the holes, air is allowed to leak out making room for the balloon to inflate. With the intact bottle, you run …Continue reading”Sneaky Bottles”
Fountain Bottle
As you blow air into the bottle, the air pressure increases inside the bottle. This higher pressure pushes on the water, which gets forced up and out the straw (and up your nose!). Materials: small lump of clay, water, a straw, and one empty 2-liter soda bottle.
Ping Pong Funnel
As you blow into the funnel, the air under the ball moves faster than the other air surrounding the ball, which generates an area of lower air pressure. The pressure under the ball is therefore lower than the surrounding air which is, by comparison, at a higher pressure. This higher pressure pushes the ball back …Continue reading”Ping Pong Funnel”