National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


Water Supply

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5

Estimated Time

1-2 hours


Students will observe and understand that water changes states as it moves through the water cycle. 


  • Water in Agriculture pictures
  • Ice cubes
  • Water
  • Large, clear plastic bowl
  • Clear glass
  • Masking tape
  • Small container (like a butter tub)
  • Small weight (like a rock with a diameter the size of a quarter)
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Large rubber band
  • 1-gallon container (such as a plastic ice cream bucket)
  • Clear bowl
  • Eye dropper
  • 1/2-cup measuring cup
  • Small plate

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


gas: a state of matter where a substance (such as oxygen or hydrogen) is like air and has no fixed shape

liquid: a state of matter in which a substance exhibits ability to flow freely like water; not a solid or a gas

solid: a state of matter where a substance has a definite shape and volume; not liquid or gaseous

water: a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H 2 O

Background Agricultural Connections

One of the most important natural resources that covers the earth’s surface is water. All living things depend on water for survival. As the world population continues to grow, more and more people, plants, animals, and other living creatures need water to live. Water is a renewable resource used over and over through evaporation, transpiration, and precipitation. The water that is on earth now is the same water that has always been here. No “new” water is being made.

The movement of water in and around the earth is called the water cycle. The water cycle is continuous. Rain or snow falls on oceans and land as precipitation. The soil will soak up some of the water. Plants will take up some of this water through their roots, and some water will move down through the soil to become groundwater. Some of the water from the rain and snow will run off the land into streams, marshes, lakes, and oceans. The water that remains on the earth’s surface is called surface water. The surface water will return to the atmosphere through evaporation. Then water vapor may form clouds that cause precipitation—rain or snow—to occur again. The precipitation will return to the surface of the earth, and the cycle will continue. Through different stages of the water cycle water can be liquid, solid, or gas.

Water is extremely important for crop production because crops (plants) need water to grow. A good crop of corn or soybeans needs at least 20 inches of water a year. Yet, almost every year, the corn and soybeans’ water is limited to some degree by drought. Drought occurs when there is a lack of water. Some years the summer rainfall is below normal, and some years there are varying amounts of rainfall throughout the season. For this reason, more and more farmers are installing irrigation systems to ensure that their crops receive an adequate amount of water. Irrigation means watering land with artificial methods, or man-made watering. Water is taken from lakes, rivers, streams, and wells, transported to croplands, and used to water the crops. Irrigation is used in areas that go without rainfall for a long time. Places such as the southwestern United States, Egypt, and Italy use irrigation during dry periods or all year. 

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Show your students the Water in Agriculture pictures attached to this lesson.
    • You can print the pictures or project them on a screen
  2. As you display the pictures, ask students to identify what they see in common in the pictures.
    • Students should recognize water in each picture.  They should also recognize that each picture shows a plant or animal that is produced to provide our food.
  3. Begin a basic conversation with your students about the importance of water.  Likely, they already know that we need water in our bodies to live and be healthy.  Help them extend their knowledge and begin to understand that without water, farmers could not provide our food.


Activity 1: Changing States 

Conduct this lesson with your students to help them understand that water exists in different forms. Water can exist as a liquid (water), solid (ice), or gas (water vapor) and can change from one form to another. 

  1. Place one cup of water into a clear bowl. Place a piece of masking tape on the outside of the bowl at the top of the water line. Set the bowl on a sunny window sill. Check the bowl every half-hour to see what happens. The sun will warm the water and cause the water to evaporate. This means that the water will turn from a liquid into a gas (water vapor). The amount of water in the bowl will decrease when the liquid turns into water vapor. (Remind students that we cannot see water vapor.) 
  2. After you place the bowl of water on the window sill, fill a clear glass three-fourths full with ice. Set the glass of ice where most students can watch it. Check the glass every 15 to 20 minutes to see what happens. Explain to your students that ice is the solid state of water. Ice will melt because the classroom is not at a cold enough temperature to keep the ice frozen. The melting ice demonstrates the change of a solid to a liquid. 

Activity 2: Water Cycle 

Explain to the students that water changes from one form into another naturally in the environment. To help students understand how water changes from one form into another in nature, make a water cycle using the following directions. 

  1. Take the clear, large plastic bowl and place the smaller container (butter tub) in the middle of the large bowl. Pour water into the large bowl, around the small container, but not inside the small container. Fill the large bowl until the water level reaches to about three-fourths of the height of the small container. 
  2. Place a piece of clear plastic wrap over the large bowl. Put the rubber band around the top of the bowl to keep the plastic wrap in place. Take the weight (rock) and put it in the middle of the plastic wrap. Place the “water cycle” inside the classroom in a sunny spot (like a windowsill). 
  3. The sun will heat the water in the large bowl so the water will evaporate, just like the water did in the experiment above. Here the liquid form of water has changed into gas. The evaporated water (gas) will rise and condense on the plastic wrap. This means that the water vapor has turned back into liquid. The water droplets will slide down the plastic wrap until they are underneath the weight (rock). Then they will fall into the small container. The small container collects the water that has been “recycled.” 

Activity 3: The Earth’s Water Supply 

  1. Discuss the Earth’s water supply using the information from the introduction. 
  2. Display the following information on a poster or the chalkboard.  To demonstrate how much of the Earth’s water supply is actually used, ask some students to help you with the next steps. (Make sure that the students understand this is just a demonstration and there is actually more water than this on earth.) 
  3. Pour water into a one-gallon container, such as a plastic ice cream bucket. This represents all the water on the earth. 
  4. Pour a half-cup of water out of the one-gallon container and into a clear bowl. The water in the bowl represents all of the fresh water on earth, which is less than three percent of the total water on earth. Fresh water is found in lakes, rivers, groundwater, ice, and living things. The 15 half-cups that are still in the one-gallon container represent salt water. We cannot use salt water without first removing the salt in a process known as desalination. Though research and technology are improving this process, it is still prohibitively expensive and often impractical.
  5. With an eyedropper, drop one drop of water from the half-cup onto a small plate. This one drop represents the freshwater that is available for our use. This water is found in rivers and lakes. The rest of the water in the half-cup is deep groundwater, water bound up as soil moisture, biomass water, or water in the atmosphere. 

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:

After conducting these activities review and summarize the key concepts using the following questions: 

  1. In what forms does water exist? 
  2. Can one form of water change into a different form? 
  3. How can water change from a liquid into a gas (water vapor)
  4. How does ice (a solid) change into water (a liquid)
  5. How does a liquid (water) change into a solid (ice)
  6. What is the water cycle? 
  7. Why can’t we use the water available in the oceans? 
  8. What types of water can we use? 
  9. Where is the water found that we can use? 
  10. Can you think of ways that we can conserve water? 

We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

  • Play the My American Farm interactive game Wild Water Adventures.

  • Invite a soil and water conservationist into the classroom to talk to the students.

  • Look on a world map to locate where water exists as a solid, a liquid, in the land, oceans, rivers, and lakes.

  • Have the students make posters to teach other students why we should not pollute water. Hang the posters around the school.

  • Learn more about how water is important to us as human beings and to all other living organisms.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Agriculture and the Environment

  • Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production (T1.3-5.b)
  • Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals) (T1.3-5.e)

Education Content Standards


5-ESS2: Earth's Systems

  • 5-ESS2-1
    Develop a model using an example to describe ways in which the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

5-LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • 5-LS2-1
    Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

Common Core Connections

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Mathematics: Practice Standards

    Use appropriate tools strategically. Students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understandings of concepts.


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