4. Cycles: Movement of Water

 (This is the Learning Episode 4 for Rose Honey’s teaching unit, Discovering Our Relationship with Water.)


  • Water is always moving from place to place. Sometimes it moves quickly, sometimes it moves very slowly.
  • Water can communicate to us if we listen very carefully.
  • Clouds are part of the water cycle and there are many different types of clouds.


On June 13, 1805, Lewis discovered the Great Falls of the Missouri River. He wrote, “… my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water and advancing a little further I saw the spray arise above the plain like a column of smoke which soon began to make a roaring too tremendous to be mistaken for any cause short of the great falls of the Missouri… From the reflection of the sun on the spray or mist is a beautiful rainbow produced which adds not a little to the beauty of this majestically grand scenery (Lewis, Clark and Members of the Corps of Discovery, 2002).” Cycles—Movement of Water is focused on teaching learners about how water is always moving, and how it moves from place to place around the world, making a cycle called the water cycle. Activities teach students to listen carefully to moving water, to hear what it has to tell us, to observe clouds as they move across the sky and to think about how clouds produce rain.


  • Butcher paper
  • Eyes and ears!


Read this quote to the children by Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux: “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are the stars. The wind in its greatest powers whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves (Caduto & Bruchac, 1991, p. 5)” Ask the students, “What did you notice about the story I just told you? What does Black Elk say about the sun? What shape is the sun and the moon? Do you have any questions about what Black Elk said about circles?”

Show the students a diagram of the water cycle. One diagram is included in this curriculum (USGS Science for a Changing World, 2013). With a little research, numerous diagrams of the water cycle can be found online. Look at the diagram and lead your students in a discussion about where the water in the local rivers and lakes comes from? Where does rain come from? Where does it go? What about snow? Where does snow go when it melts?


Ask your students to say the word for water in Black Elk’s language, Lakota Sioux, which is “Miní” [Mi-nee] (Native Languages of the Americas, 2013).”


Watch the following Water Cycle video (Arunrattananont, 2010).

Discovery Journals

Ask students to draw a water cycle in their journals. Help them begin their drawing by drawing a big circle on the page (you can do this for them if it is helpful). Guide them to include water as it exists on the ground, as it evaporates into the air, clouds at the top of their circle, and rain coming back down to the earth. Let them get as detailed as they would like. For students who may not be able to do this yet, have cut-out pictures of clouds, rain drops, etc. for them to paste onto their water cycle.

Books to Read

  • Follow the Water From Brook to Ocean [Book 10] (Dorros, 1991).
  • Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend [Book 11] (Van Laan, 1997).
  • The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story [Book 12] (Waldman, 2003).
  • Story of the Seasons [Book 13] (Warm Springs Reservation Committee, 1978).
  • Book List



0688e706cb13fd4bb7e9e1efa915964eInside Activity

 Communication with Water

“’Wauna’ is the Indian name for the Columbia River. Wauna is a beautiful word. It means ‘the River.’ The Indians all love to listen to the music of the crashing river as it goes tumbling down over the big rocks at Celilo Falls. And they love to listen to the echoes as they come singing back from the high cliffs on either side. These Indians are the Wy-ams. “Wy-am” means the echo of the water against the rocks at the Falls. These Indians are called Fish Indians. That is because they make their living here fishing for salmon. They build these platforms out over the water. They tie themselves onto the platforms. Then they hold their dip nets down in the water and wait for the big, silver salmon to swim into them (McKeown, 1956).

What can moving water communicate to us? This activity engages learners in listening closely to water and thinking about how moving water can communicate with us. Encourage learners to explore different water sounds in the classroom (sinks, toilets, fish tank, sprinklers), to mimic them, to look at pictures of water and think about what it might tell us, and to listen carefully to water sounds and describe what they hear.

  • Ask learners, what does moving water sound like? Ask them to talk like water to each other.
  • Ask them to practice saying the name for ‘the river’ in the story: “wauna”
  • Next, ask them what they think water is trying to tell us? What can moving water tell us when we listen closely to what it is saying? Is it happy? Is it in a hurry? Is it playing, singing or maybe dancing?
  • Play videos, listen to the audio recordings, or show still photos of different types of water. You can also look on YouTube for more examples of water sounds, videos or pictures of waterfalls, rapids in a river, babbling brooks, still ponds/lakes, ocean waves, ice cracking, snow falling, raindrops, lightning and thunder, etc.











Emerging Learners

You can provide smaller steps for emerging learners by introducing the videos slowly. First, watch the video together and make observations together about what you see. Next, ask the students to close their eyes and listen. What do they hear? Some children might just say, “water.” Ask them to mimic what they hear. Then ask them, “if this water was telling you to do something, what do you imagine it might be saying?”

Advanced Learners

For more advanced learners, you can start to ask them more directed questions about the movement of water. Does the movement of water help us? What if water didn’t move (there were no rivers, no rain, no snow), what would our lives be like? How did moving water traditionally help tribal people? How did it help Lewis and Clark’s journey? Were there ways in which moving water (like the Great Falls) might make travel difficult?

Helpful Hints

What children can learn from listening can contribute to their later ability to read and write (Strickland & Riley-Ayers, 2006). Emphasizing good listening by asking children to listen and then sharing what they heard will develop listening comprehension and help them to slow down and think about what they are hearing. Give the children time to watch and listen to the videos, play them a few times if necessary, and then make sure that the other children are listening to the observations that each student made about what the water is communicating to them.


fb65735a70bf1412e670c3edcde3911bOutside Activity

Could Watching

  • First, read the following book to your students: The Cloud Book [Book 13] by Tomie de Paola [Holiday House, 1984]. Ask your students, “Have you ever observed the clouds? What did you see?” Go over the three types of clouds and draw an example of each one onto a large piece of butcher paper. Ask the students to draw or paint examples of these clouds in their Discovery Journals. For examples of these clouds online, go to the Wonders in Weather page (Meyerhorn, 2001).
    • Cirrus clouds are feathery white and high in the sky. They are thin, wispy clouds that you can see through.
    • Stratus clouds are the thick, mid-level clouds that coat the sky like a sheet.
    • Cumulus clouds look like cauliflower. They are the puffy fair weather clouds that we see on sunny days.
    • Cumulonimbus clouds have lumps that look like cows’ udders.
  • Take your students outside (preferably on a day with a lot of clouds). Have your students lies on the grass and look at the clouds while you tell them the following story:


  • After the story, have the students observe the clouds in the sky. Are there any stories in the clouds that they can see or hear? Are the clouds moving? Are the clouds high in the sky or low in the sky? Are some clouds higher than others? Can they see any raindrops coming from any of the clouds? Have the students, one-by-one, describe to the group what they see. Encourage them to use words like above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to while they are talking about what they observe. Remind the students that clouds are part of the water cycle and that clouds are made up of evaporated water.


Listen to Carol Buswell talk about her ancestors and the Cherokee word for water.



Use the following questions as talking points to disucss the water cycle. Use the children’s answers and knowledge to gauge what parts of the activities they understood or may need to repeat in the future.

  • During the cloud watching activity, ask the children where they think the clouds came from, and where do they think they will go when they leave the sky?
  • Talk again about the states of matter from Learning Episode 3: Transformation. Probe the children to see if they can connect the idea that water exists in different states of matter within the water cycle. Ask them questions like, “In the water cycle, what happens when clouds turn into raindrops? What does water look like when it is in a cloud? What does it look like when it is in a raindrop?” Give them an example if you need to.
  • Ask the children to recall what they think water can communicate to them. Ask them to create the sounds that water can make, and what those sounds mean to them.


Arunrattananont, W. [WizitArun] (2010, April 24) The Water Cycle [Video File]. Retrived from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StPobH5ODTw

Caduto, M. and Bruchac, J. (1991). Keepers of the Animals. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing Company.

de Paola, T. (1984) The Cloud Book. New York, New York: Holiday House.

Dorros, A. (1991) Follow the Water From Brook to Ocean. New York, New York: Harper Collins.

First People—The Legends (2013). Native American Legends: Cloud People. Retrieved from: http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/CloudPeople-Unknown.html

Lewis, M., Clark, W., and Members of the Corps of Discovery. (2002). June 13, 1805. In G. Moulton (Ed.), The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from the University of Nebraska Press / University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries-Electronic Text Center, The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition web site: http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/read/?_xmlsrc=1805-06-13.xml&_xslsrc=LCstyles.xsl

McKeown, M.F. (1956). Linda’s Indian Home. Portland: Oregon. Binfords and Mort.

Meyerhorn, A. (2001). Wonders in Weather. Retrieved from http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/school/dondero/msm/weather/index.html

Native Languages of the Americas (2013). Vocabulary Words in Native American Languages: Lakota Sioux

Words. Retrieved from http://www.native-languages.org/lakota_words.htm

Strickland, D. and Riley-Ayers, S. (2006). Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years. Retrieved from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/11375

USGS Science for a Changing World (2013). The Water Cycle: Water Science for Schools. Retrieved from: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle-kids.html

Van Lann, N. (1997). Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend. San Anselmo, California: Sandpiper Press.

Waldman, N. (2003). The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Millbrook Press.

Warm Springs Reservation Committee (1978). Story of the Seasons, The Indian Reading Series: Stories and Legends of the Northwest. Warm Springs, Oregon: Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. Retrieved from http://apps.educationnorthwest.org/indianreading/3/book01.pdf