Great Lakes Water Activities – Hydrology for Kids

Great Lakes water activities provides lots of teachable moments. Start with the hydrosphere. Then move on to the evaporation and the water cycle. In addition, kids can learn about nutrient pollution. Don’t forget to explain the lakes’ sizes and positions!

Great Lakes Water Activities Cover

Ms. Sneed Teaches Great Lakes Water

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the side table with her co-teacher. “What Great Lakes activities can we add that are related to water?” she asked.

“Hmm.” Mr. Frank clicked through some files on his computer. “I see quite a few things we can pull in.”

The Hydrosphere

Ms. Sneed stood up and looked over his shoulder. “Let’s take a look at that set of hydrology activities,” she said.

Mr. Frank pulled up the preview. “This first activity will help our kids understand the percentage of accessible fresh water,” he said.

“And how precious the water in our lakes is,” Ms. Sneed added.

“Initially, the students will read a two-page article. From it, they’ll add information to this table. Then they’ll use the information to create these four pie graphs: water on Earth, salt water, fresh water, and accessible fresh water.”

“As they learn about the hydrosphere, they’ll also read informational text and practice graphing. Great!”

While studying the Great Lakes, teach kids about the hydrosphere. They will be surprised how little fresh water can be found on Earth - and how much of it is found in our inland seas.


Mr. Frank clicked through the next few pages. “These evaporation experiments are simple,” he said. “However, kids need to answer some pretty sophisticated questions using science practices. Look at this: variables, replication, and scientific tools.

“We would arrange our students in six science lab groups. Two groups would explore each question: Which water evaporates faster:

  • salt or fresh?
  • in sunny or dark conditions?
  • in a covered or uncovered cup?”

“Perfect,” said Ms. Sneed. “Using authentic experiments really improves our science program.”

Great Lakes water activities can include simple evaporation experiments. Kids compare fresh and salt water, sunny and dark conditions, and covered or uncovered cups.

The Water Cycle

As he clicked to the next activity, Ms. Sneed smiled. “I had forgotten all about this simulation! Kids draw the water cycle on a Ziploc baggie. We add water with blue food coloring. Then we hang them on the windows. Instant hydrologic cycle!”

Simulate the hydrologic cycle in a baggie as one of your Great Lakes water activities.

Nutrient Pollution

“In the next activity, kids experiment with water pollution,” Mr. Frank said. “They add different amounts of plant fertilizer to pond water. Over a three-week period, they observe changes – and even look at samples under microscopes.”

“Microscopes? Oh wow. My students would love that!”

You may be surprised that nutrients are a cause of pollution in Great Lakes water. Try this experiment in your class!

Great Lakes Water – Sizes and Positions of the Lakes

“Finally, they use containers to estimate the relative sizes and positions of the Great Lakes.”

“What kind of containers?”

“Looks like it could be anything. We could reuse plastic dairy containers, for example. You know, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese…”

“Or ice cream!”

“Exactly,” Mr. Frank said.

Teach your students about the sizes and positions of the Great Lakes.

Ms. Sneed stood up straight and stretched. “First,” she said, “our students will learn a little bit about facts and geography of the Great Lakes. Second, they’ll start reading Paddle-to-the-Sea. Then, as they read, they can do geology and hydrology activities.”

That famous teacher smile spread across her face. Yes, when a complete interdisciplinary unit came together, she enjoyed teaching even more.

Previous Post
Teaching Great Lakes Geology and Glaciers for Kids
Next Post
Teaching Paddle-to-the-Sea, a Book About the Great Lakes