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Waves breaking near a coast
Courtesy of UCAR

Resources for Teaching About the Hydrosphere

Windows to the Universe invites you to explore Earth's hydrosphere with your students via activities for the classroom. Listed below are activities that we have developed that are appropriate for elementary students. Click on the Intermediate button above for activities appropriate for the middle school level, or click on the Advanced link for activities appropriate for high school level.

Surface Water

  • Build a Model Watershed Students construct a model land surface and use the model to explore basic concepts of watersheds including that water flows downhill, that ridges of higher land can divide watersheds, that lower-lying areas can create pools, and that water quality is affected by what is upstream.
  • The Land Plan Challenge Students work in groups to plan towns, being conscious of water resources - rivers and wetlands - and then learn how their town fits into the larger community.
  • Exploring Density of Salt and Fresh Water: Par 5 This activity provides an introduction to the interaction of fresh and salt water, a phenomena that happens at many deltas and estuaries. It can also serve as an introduction to a discussion of density in general.


  • Ducks in the Flow A storybook and three classroom activities about surface ocean currents developed for the upper elementary classroom
  • Thermal Expansion and Sea Level Rise Discover how water expands as it warms and how this phenomena affects the volume of water in the ocean and sea level.
  • Magnetometer Extensions Activity Students investigate evidence for seafloor spreading - magnetic reversals preserved in rocks on the seafloor - using a handmade magnetometer.

Marine Life

  • The Arctic Creature Mobile Students color, cut, and assemble a mobile of creatures that live in the Arctic Ocean and on the sea ice above it.
  • Growing Penguins Timeline Students match written descriptions and photographs of Adelie penguins at various stages of development then make a timeline of chick growth and development.

Other Water Education Resources (links outside Windows to the Universe)

Last modified January 9, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA