“I never knew it was so frustrating being a water molecule,” a fifth grader in Amy Coughlin’s class at Pound Ridge Elementary School said.
The student and his classmates were playing a game in which they were pretending to be water molecules during the “Amazing Journey of Water,” an enrichment lesson presented by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES' Center for Environmental Education.
Stations were set up around the classroom representing different stops on a water molecule’s journey. There were tables labeled plants, clouds, ocean, mountains and glaciers, groundwater, and streams and rivers. At each station, students rolled a die that sent them to the next part of their journey. They kept track of where they went by adding a bead from each station to a pipe cleaner.
“This is rigged!” a student yelled out after being stuck in a loop at the same three stations.
The environmental educator laughed, bringing the students’ frustration back to what they had just learned about water.
“Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by the ocean,” he said. “A water molecule spends a lot of time there. How does it leave?”
Thinking about what they learned about the water cycle during the lesson, students excitedly called out that water evaporates from the ocean and forms clouds. One student noted that a lot of clouds end up as rain that goes back into the ocean.
“Exactly!” the environmental educator said. “That’s why some of you are getting stuck at the same stations.”
The dice were set up with options that mirrored where an actual water molecule would move from each part of the cycle. While groundwater might have a bunch of different options, some parts of the cycle did not. The ocean station, for example, had a die that was heavy on clouds and the cloud station had a die that had a lot of sides with “ocean” on it.
“As you can see, water does move around,” the environmental educator said. “Your journey was different from anyone else’s. Some water repeats the cloud-to-ocean loop. Some water travels all around.”