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    Let our in-person virtual distance learning programs and family experiences provide a COVID-safe educational experience for your school or community group! We have modified some of our most popular programs to address the health and safety of all our community. 

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    Your students become scientists during our ScienceWorks Labs. All programs align with National Science Education Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations and Common Core State Standards. Labs are available year-round for preschool to middle school students and are led by an instructor.

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    Our Outreach staff brings the Museum to you—at schools, libraries, community centers, and festivals—by delivering hands-on programming customized to your schedule and curriculum interests.

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  • Summer Camp

    Through the Unity in Learning partnership, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Leslie Science & Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum now offer families incredible day camps at two fantastic locations in Ann Arbor and Belleville.

  • Birthday Parties

    Have a STEM-tastic birthday party with us at the museum! Join us on Saturdays as we help you and your guests celebrate your special day at the museum.

Back to Programs

Water Cycle (2nd-4th)

Look Beyond the four stages of the water cycle. Engage in experiments and become a water drop as you experience the many paths of a water molecule. Register today!

Cost: $6 per student 

Standard labs are booked for a minimum of 15 students with a minimum price of $90.

Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09

  • Identify natural resources (metals, fuels, fresh water, fertile soil, and forests). (E.ES.03.41)
  • Describe ways humans are dependent on the natural environment (forests, water, clean air, earth materials) and constructed environments (homes, neighborhoods, shopping malls, factories and industry). (E.ES.03.51)
  • Explain how matter can change from one state (liquid, solid, gas) to another by heating and cooling. (P.CM.04.11)

Next Generation Science Standards

Students participating in this program will explore science content as stated in the Disciplinary Core Ideas. They will engage in science and engineering practices as they plan and conduct investigations to answer questions regarding the water cycle.

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

  • Different kinds of matter exist and many of them can be either solid or liquid, depending on temperature. Matter can be described and classified by its observable properties.
  • Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects.

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions

  • Heating or cooling a substance may cause changes that can be observed. Sometimes these changes are reversible, and sometimes they are not.

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes

  • Water is found in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Water exists as solid ice and in liquid form.
  • Nearly all of Earth’s available water is in the ocean. Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground; only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.
  • Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.
  • Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity.

Water Cycle Pre-visit Information

During Your Visit to the ScienceWorks Lab students will be expected to:

  • Sit in tables of 6 students and (at least) 1 adult
  • Students should be prepared to give their attention to the Lab instructors when requested to “Give Me Five”
  • Work cooperatively with one another at the table
  • Follow the hands-on procedures just as the Lab teacher or assistant explains them
  • Handle materials and equipment carefully

It is important that teachers and chaperones:

  • Help to focus the students’ attention
  • Assist students with the hands-on activities and experiments when necessary
  • Turn off cell phones and pagers during the class

Please Note

  • Adults may be asked to light a match for a table experiment
  • Students will be expected to move about the room in small group activities
  • Students will be using washable ink in one activity; please be aware that they may get ink on their hands


Atmosphere: The envelope of gas or air surrounding the earth.

Cloud: A visible collection of liquid water or ice condensed in the atmosphere.

Collection: The pooling together of precipitation into bodies of water.

Condensation: The process by which water vapor clumps together to form liquid water.

Evaporation: The process by which liquid water is converted to water vapor.

Molecule: The smallest particle of any substance that retains the same characteristics.

Non-porous Surface: A surface that does not absorb any water.

Porous Surface: A surface, such as a sponge, that readily soaks up water.

Precipitation: Rain, sleet, hail or snow falling from the atmosphere to the earth.

Transpiration: process where plants transfer water to the atmosphere in the form of water vapor.

Water Body: A large pool of water. For instance, an ocean, river, lake, etc.

Water Cycle: The natural cycle controlling the distribution of water throughout the earth. This involves four main processes: evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection.

Water Vapor: Water in its gaseous state.

Water Cycle Post-visit Activity: Build Your Own Terrarium

Post-visit activities will help reiterate new concepts and tie the ScienceWorks Lab experience to your classroom curriculum. Below you will find a classroom activity and a list of suggested resources for further information. We hope that you enjoyed your field trip. Visit us again!


  • 1 large, clear tupperware container (at least 1 L) with lid per student, group or class.
  • Gravel
  • Potting Soil
  • Powdered Charcoal
  • Small, slow growing plants or seeds
  • Water


  1. Add about 1 inch of gravel to the bottom of your container.
  2. Add about ½ inch of charcoal above the gravel.
  3. Add about 2–3 inches of potting soil.
  4. Carefully place 2 or 3 small plants or seeds into your soil.
  5. Pour in just enough water to moisten the soil.
  6. With a pencil poke a few small holes in the lid.
  7. Securely fasten your lid on top of your container.
  8. Place your terrarium in the sunlight.


You have just created a terrarium. This is a closed and self-contained system. If you are building one terrarium for the class, feel free to make it larger. Watch carefully as the day passes. You should notice that inside your terrarium, water will evaporate from the soil, condense on the lid, precipitate down onto the plants and collect in the soil. This cycle will repeat over and over again. You shouldn’t have to add any water. If students are making their own, have them keep a scientific journal about what they notice.

The gravel acts as a drainage system. Without the gravel, roots could end up sitting in water and rotting. The charcoal serves a similar purpose as the gravel. It helps with drainage and keeps roots healthy. The plant grows in the potting soil. If you notice mold forming, open your container and either transfer your plants to a new terrarium or put them in a regular pot.

Suggested Resources


Relf, Pat and Carolyn Bracken. The Magic School Bus Wet All Over: A Book About the Water Cycle. Scholastic Paperbacks. 1996.
McKinney, Barbara and Michael S. Maydak. A Drop Around the World. Dawn Publications (CA). 1998.
Royston, Angela. The Life and Times of a Drop of Water: The Water Cycle. Raintree. 2006.
Olien, Rebecca. The Water Cycle (First Facts, Water All Around). Capstone Press. 2005.
Goodrich, Randi. Hydro’s Adventure Through the Water Cycle. Geoquest Publications, 2004.


The Water Cycle
Water Cycle — Animated Diagram
Water Cycle Games and Activities

Water Cycle (2nd-4th)



50 minutes

K-2nd, 3-5th

20, 30, 60, 100

Physical Sciences

Still not sure we have the experience you want?

Visit unityinlearning.org to open a gateway to hands-on discovery, exploration of the natural world, and experiences that take flight.

Through the Unity in Learning partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On MuseumLeslie Science and Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum we provide over 100 different  programs at our facilities, on site at your location, or through interactive video conferencing.