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The Water Cycle KS2

The Water Cycle KS2

Facts and resources for teaching KS2 children about the water cycle

Water: It covers over two thirds of our planet’s surface, with around ninety-seven per cent of that being saltwater in the oceans. Only about three per cent of all the water on Earth is what we call freshwater. Of that water, only around a third is accessible and drinkable! The rest is frozen in glaciers and snowfields. Water also exists in the air around us as water vapour and inside us and other living things: humans are 60% water!

Only around 1% of the water on Earth is accessible drinking water.
Only around 1% of the water on Earth is accessible drinking water.

 The amount of water on our planet is finite. It is essential to all life on Earth and goes through a constant process of moving and changing state around us. This is called the Water cycle. 

Want some ready-to-teach resources on Water Scarcity?

Check out our ESR resources for KS1, LKS2 and UKS2 here.


 Find our Water Scarcity lessons here
Find our Water Scarcity lessons here.


What are the Water Cycle Steps?

There are six steps in the water cycle:

  1. Evaporation
  2. Transpiration
  3. Condensation
  4. Precipitation
  5. Collection
  6. Surface run-off and groundwater

Depending on where water evaporates or transpires, and where it precipitates and collects, it may not go through all six stages. To help you understand why, here's a detailed explanation of the six steps in the water cycle:


The surface of the Earth is heated by the Sun. This increases the temperature of the water in our rivers, lakes and oceans. As a result of this, some of the water evaporates into the air, turning into a gas called water vapour.


Plants and trees also lose water to the atmosphere through their leaves. This process is known as transpiration.


When water vapour rises higher in the sky, it begins to cool and turns back into a liquid, forming water droplets. Clouds form from these water droplets. This process is called condensation.


When the water droplets in the clouds become too heavy for the air to hold them, they fall back down to Earth as rain, snow, hail or sleet. This is called precipitation.


Some of the water falls back into lakes, rivers or the sea. Some of it falls onto the ground. In cold climates, it may stay on the ground and form snow, ice or even glaciers. This is called collection.

Surface Run-Off and Groundwater

Water that reaches land may flow across the ground and collect in the oceans, rivers or lakes. This water is called surface runoff. Some of the water will soak into the soil. It will slowly move through the ground until it eventually reaches a river or ocean. This is called groundwater.

Check out our Water Cycle Diagram Freebee here!

Check out our Water Cycle Diagram Freebee here!

Teaching the Water Cycle KS2 Lessons

The water cycle pops up in two main areas of the National Curriculum for KS2: 

  • Year 4 Science in the ‘States of Matter’ section - “Pupils should be taught to identify the part played by evaporation and condensation in the water cycle and associate the rate of evaporation with temperature.” 
  • KS2 Geography - “Pupils should be taught to describe and understand key aspects of physical geography, including climate zones, biomes and vegetation belts, rivers, mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes, and the water cycle

The Water Cycle in the Science Curriculum

In Year 4 Science the children will study the different states that matter can take: solids, liquids and gases. They will also be taught the names of the processes that matter will go through in order to change state: freezing, melting, evaporation and condensation. They will think about the water’s particles and how they behave in each state.


Water particles changing state
Water particles changing state


The water cycle provides an excellent real-world example of how evaporation and condensation play an important role in the world around us. The six steps of the water cycle explained above can be simplified down to four steps for this purpose: evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection.

Why not try…?

Creating a mini model of the water cycle using warm water, ice and a cup? 


Try creating a mini model of the water cycle.
Try creating a mini model of the water cycle.


Place warm water in a cup, cover it with cling film and then place ice on top of the cling film. As the water evaporates from the warm water, it will rise up to the cold cling film where it will condense and drip back down. Challenge your class to name the four steps of the water cycle they can see in the experiment.

This experiment is part of our Year 4 Science ‘States of Matter Scheme’. Check it out here!

The Water Cycle in the Geography Curriculum

Part of the children’s geographical learning will focus on the physical geography of an area. Rivers are explicitly listed in the National Curriculum as a physical feature to be focused on. 

The journey of a river lends itself perfectly to learning about the water cycle, as rivers rely on it! The source of a river will usually rely on precipitation in order to grow and flow into a larger river. 


Take a look at our Journey of a River freebee.
Take a look at our Journey of a River freebee.


As the river continues its journey, the water will evaporate slightly from the river, as well as after it reachers the seas and oceans. This evaporated water, condenses into clouds which will travel. The resulting precipitation from the cloud may become surface runoff, rejoining the river at any point along its journey. 

Thinking about teaching the water cycle alongside a rivers topic? 

Check out our fully-resourced lessons for Year 5 & 6 Geography: Investigating Rivers.


Thinking about focusing on a particular river or coast?

Check out our collection of Rivers and Coasts resources here.

Why not try…?

If you’re not keen on focusing on rivers for your teaching of the water cycle, why not focus on the water itself?! Our Geography scheme for Year 5 and 6 ‘Water World' is crammed full of geography learning including rivers, coasts, uses of water, comparisons of the UK with a non-European country, and a local study of water. What more could you need to teach a varied yet comprehensive set of geography lessons? 


Find these Water World resources here.
Find these Water World resources here.


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