Teaching About Great Lakes Water | Hydrology for Kids

Great Lakes water 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!

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 Great Lakes water 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.

“First, 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.”

“In addition to learning about fresh water, they’ll also read informational text and practice graphing. Great!”

While studying Great Lakes water, kids read about the hydrosphere. Then they complete a table and graph ocean on Earth, salt water, fresh water, and accessible fresh water.

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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 the scientific method. Look at this: variables, replication, and scientific tools.”

This Great Lakes water experiment asks kids to use the scientific method. They compare evaporation of salt and fresh water, water in sunny and dark conditions, and water in covered and 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!”

Kids study the Great Lakes water cycle with online interactive, as well as with a baggie simulation.

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!”

Great Lakes water gets polluted by nutrients. Kids conduct an experiment by adding drops of fertilizer to pond water.
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.

Kids study a cross-section diagram of the Great Lakes to conceptualize their volumes.

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, she loved it when a complete interdisciplinary unit came together.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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