Water Cycle - Atmosphere (K)
Pre Lab 

  • Investigating how water produces clouds.
  • Exploring how clouds are formed.
  • atmosphere
  • cirrus
  • clouds
  • cumulus
  • fog
  • nimbus    
  • stratus

Students look at pictures of clouds using a poem.


Students learn early that clouds are "puffy balls of cotton" in the sky.  However, many may not realize that clouds are really another form of water.  Evaporation or the process involved in changing water from the liquid state to the gaseous state is very important in the conversion.  Introduce to students that clouds are really the gaseous state of water and are produced within the atmosphere. 

There are 4 major terms that help describe clouds.  "Stratus clouds," are grey, and float low in the sky, flat as sheets and may bring rain or drizzle. "Cumulus clouds" are white, and pile high in the air.  That means fair weather is coming. "Cirrus clouds " are white and curly.  They float highest of all and bring a change of weather. "Nimbus” in a cloud name refers to  clouds that  are dark, which  usually mean rain or snow.  Cumulonimbus is a cumulus cloud that usually means rain in the forecast.   Fog is just a cloud that lies on the ground. 

Scientifically clouds are classified by their altitude and a combination of the stratus, cumulus, cirrus, and nimbus to further sort them.  However, students need to associate nimbus, stratus, cirrus, and cumulus with correct images before they can really learn to describe the clouds that they see in the sky.

  1. Ask students if clouds are in outer space.  No, because clouds require air and water vapor to “live.”   Clouds on our Earth exist in our “Atmosphere.”  The atmosphere is an envelope of air and water vapor that surrounds the earth.  Students  sometimes have problems understanding that clouds are actually “lighter” than the air.  Use the Italian Dressing (oil and vinegar with spices) to  demonstrate that even though the oil  looks heavier than the water, the oil will float. Remind students that “air” is a substance that takes up space.  
  2. Ask students if clouds are all the same shape.  No, clouds,  come in many different shapes.  Ask students if clouds are the same color.  No, mainly they are white, but can be dark gray.  During sunset or sunrise clouds can reflect the colors of the Sun through the atmosphere and makes pretty colors.
  3. Read  the poem on Clouds by M. Doherty.  The pictures with the poem can help students visualize the different types of clouds. 
  4. There are many sites on the Internet that deal with clouds.  Below is an example of a graphically rich sites that could be used for students to look at clouds.  Key is for students to try and describe them in terms that they understand and can communicate.

    Internet sites on clouds

    This site is maintained by Michael Bath and Jimmy Deguara from Australia.  Their site is rich with graphics that can really help children see clouds from down under. 

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