• Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

    Bryce Canyon

    National Park Utah

Activity 9: Groundwater



This activity is designed for younger students to be introduced to water and its three phases, liquid, solid, and vapor. Students will use their senses to observe, taste, feel, and describe water, and their imaginations to understand the concepts of water's phases.

Instructional Method: Game

Goal: Teach younger students about the three phases of water.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of water through use of their senses.
  • Name and describe the three forms of water.


1 hour

Materials Needed:

  • 2 large buckets: one filled with water in its liquid form, the other in its solid form (ice)
  • Blindfolds (one for every student)
  • Cup of water for every student to drink
  • Large dishpan filled with sand/soil and rocks




Water is vital to all life on Earth. However, there is only a set amount of water on earth. Water moves from one place to another in various forms: vapor, solid, liquid.

Water vapor is a gas. We generally can't see water vapor, but many days we can feel it. A humid day is a day that has a lot of water vapor in the air.

Liquid water is the phase with which we are most familiar. We drink it, clean with it, cook with it, swim in it, and it sustains life on Earth. We can see it in the atmosphere in the form of clouds. Moving water can flow with tremendous power, shaping the landscape. Geologists will often study how water can carry away sand grains, pebbles, medium sized rocks and boulders as big as a car!

Ice is water in its solid form. We use it most often to keep other things cold, in coolers, refrigerators, etc., but it is also found in nature; snow, sleet, hail, and glaciers are all ice. When water freezes it expands slightly and takes up more space than the liquid it just was. This becomes very important for geologists who study how rocks weather and erode.

Instructional Procedures:

Part 1: Introduction to Water

  1. Have one bucket frozen or filled with ice, the other filled with water. Arrange desks in a circle. Place a cup of water sitting on the students' desk, ready to drink (have it covered so they don't know what is in the cup). Before the students unveil their drinks, have them blindfolded. Explain to them that the lesson for the day has to do with something on which all life is dependent, and that without it all living organisms would die.
  2. After students are finished taking in their "mysterious" power drink, pass around the bucket of ice and bucket of water. Ask students to smell what is inside the buckets, and touch what is inside the two different buckets. After they are done feeling what is inside of the bucket, tell them they can remove their blindfolds and write down and describe what they tasted in their cups, and what they smelled and felt in the two different buckets. By now it should be obvious that the day's lesson is going to be on WATER!!!
  3. Explain to the students that there is a set amount of water on earth, and that the water that they just drank may have once been inside the belly of a dinosaur, or locked inside an ice cap 30,000 years ago. Water is constantly being recycled through the hydrologic cycle. Water is important to everything, not just humans. Ask students what would happen if water was too dirty to drink, or there was no water. (Everything would die!!!)
  4. Uses of water lists: Go around the classroom asking students the various uses of water in their household, and list them on the board. On a separate list, ask students what animals use water for (animals like bears, dogs, rabbits). Compare the two separate lists; it should be obvious that humans use much more water than other animals.
  5. Show how water shapes our environment by having a student pour water over a dishpan filled with sand and rocks. Have students gathered around so that they can see water moving the sand and shaping the environment. Ask students how else water would affect the environment (it can flood an area, cause an area to have a drought when there isn't enough water, cause landslides, etc.).

Part 2: The three phases of water and the SLV (Solid, Liquid, Vapor) game

  1. Explain the three different states of water and their characteristics, and have the students draw and describe the three stages. The three key words for the day are: solid, liquid, and vapor.
  2. SLV game is a very simple game…good for the end of the day when the students are restless and tired of being inside. If this game will be played inside, push all desks against one wall and use one wall as the start line and the opposing wall as the finish line. If the game can be played outside, create a start line and a finish line. Line students up on the start line. Explain that every time a student hears the teacher yell out a different phase of water, the student has to pretend to be that state of water. So, when the teacher yells out… - "solid!" students must be frozen solid and expand their bodies (by stretching arms and legs wide, sticking out chests, etc.) - "liquid!" students run towards the finish line - "vapor! Students must do leaps up into the air like vapor rises, with very little forward movement.
  3. If a student gets confused and does the incorrect movement, they must go back to the beginning of the line.


What are the three forms of water? Where can they see each stage (at home: ice in the freezer, water in the sink, and vapor from the tea kettle)? If the amount of water is set on earth, and no more water is being made, what can we do to help not waste water (use a cup of water for brushing their teeth instead of letting the water run, lower their shower heads, install a low-flow toilet, etc…)?


On the SLV game:
For more advanced students, call out the actions that water takes to get into each form. "MELT!" - solids will turn into liquids and run. "FREEZE!"-- liquids will turn into solids and stand strong showing expansion. "EVAPORATE!" - liquid will turn into a gas and leap into the air. "CONDENSE!" - gas will turn back into a liquid. For exceptional students you can add the verbs, "SUBLIME!" - solids will turn directly into gases without becoming a liquid first, and "FROST!" - gases will turn directly into solids without going through the liquid phase.

Included National Parks and other sites:

Bryce Canyon National Park
Glacier National Park
Hot Spring National Park
Yellowstone National Park


Frozen waterfall (Bryce Canyon National Park)
Old Faithful (Yellowstone National Park)
Water drops on flower

Utah Science Core:

Kindergarten Standard 1 Objective 2
2nd Grade Standard 2 Objective 2
4th Grade Standard 1 Objective 1,2
5th Grade Standard 1 Objective 2


Did You Know?