Puddles Mini-Unit – K, 1st, 2nd grade

Feb 9, 2019

Get your feet wet (pun intended) with NGSS by engaging early elementary students in a 5-lesson sequence exploring where puddles go. This mini-unit targets ideas explaining how water goes up into the air. It is part of a full unit that also includes lessons on how puddles go down into the ground. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (DRL 1417757).

Take a glimpse inside Kaia Tomokiyo’s kindergarten class as they try to figure out how a puddle on the grass appeared and disappeared over the course of a day!  This three-video series was created in partnership with the Teaching Channel and supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (DRL 1417757):

And see how another teacher uses back pocket questions to have a Kindergartener explain their thinking. (2 minute video)


Purpose: 1. Introduce phenomenon; Elicit students' ideas on an explanatory model (1 day) 2. Compare ideas; Create a class model; Ask Questions (1 day) 3. Covered vs uncovered puddle. Introduce the idea of evaporation and that water changes forms (2 days) 4. Compare a physical model to the real world system (water cycle in-a-bottle) (1-2 days) 5. Update and revise puddle modes (1-2 days) Questions/Prompts in this Lesson: 1. Where/when have you seen puddles form? Where do puddles come from? What makes puddles bigger? Smaller? Why do puddles go away? How can you show that in a model? What text features can you add to the model so other scientists can understand your ideas? 2. How can we show water moving/changing in a model? How do we show temperature (warm/hot) in the model? How can color, arrows, and size show ideas in pictures? What ideas do many of us think are important? 3. What do you observe? Where did the water go? What makes the water go into the air? How can we make evaporation happen faster? 4. What's happening on the cold cup? What do you notice about where droplets form? If the warm water in the bottom is like the ocean heated by the Sun, what does the ice in the cup at the top represent in the real world? What about the of water that fall down? What could we change to make this physical model better represent the real world? Why would you add __? 5. What have we done and learned so far? What was your favorite part of thinking about puddles? How can you show that idea in a picture? What are some different ways to use arrows to show your idea?

A student's earlier and later model of what happens to puddles. The model asks students Where does a puddle come from? Where does the puddle go? and has two boxes. The earlier model has a raincloud and lightning with rain pouring down into the puddle and the other box with a sun, a carrot, the puddle, and a muddy ground. In the first box of the the later model, text reads "At first the puddle is..." and has a drawing of a raincloud with lighting and rain pouring down into the puddle and a house. The second box of the later model reads "Later, the puddle is..." and shows people, a cloud, the puddle, and the sun.


What the curriculum does well…

  • The mini-unit focuses on a phenomenon likely to be familiar to young children – a puddle appearing, and later disappearing, on the ground. Their real-world experience with puddles and associated weather gives them rich tools for reasoning!
  • Students have opportunities to model, share, and work with their own and their peers’ ideas throughout. Their hypotheses and questions can often be taken up during the mini-unit.
  • Students are invited to represent ideas in multiple ways, including through movement.
  • There are opportunities to make connections to the importance of water for organisms and ecosystems on our planet.

What needs to be done to be justice-focused… 

  • Puddles as a phenomenon offer rich opportunities for localization – the focal puddle could be one in a schoolyard or a local park, with direct implications for students (like not being able to play outside at recess). 
  • Water is a resource that we need to conserve and protect. Some Indigenous communities see water as living, in part due to its deeply interconnected flow and central role in supporting ecosystems and other living organisms. Puddles are part of this broader story, and the unit could be explicitly broadened to consider why polluted water is problematic and different ways of promoting water health.
  • Further, water is not equally available to all communities. Students can learn about how communities are fighting for equal rights to water, and how water has rights in places such as the Global South.

These critiques are starting places. Adapt tools and resources within this unit and add or change activities based on ideas your students bring up in class, and critique our critiques!


Science & Children article (Haverly et al., 2021): Read more about how teachers used this mini-unit to engage emergent bilingual students in meaningful sense-making.

Teacher Educators & Professional Learning

Coming soon! Our teacher learning modules utilizing this unit!

Research and NGSS

Science & Children article (Haverly et al., 2021): Read more about how teachers used this mini-unit to engage emergent bilingual students in meaningful sense-making.

NGSS Connections:
K-PS3-1: Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.
K-ESS2-1: Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.
1-ESS1-1: Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
2-PS1-2: Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
2-PS1-3: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account of how an object made of a small set of pieces can be disassembled and made into a new object.
2-PS1-4: Construct an argument with evidence that some changes caused by heating or cooling can be reversed and some cannot.
2-ESS2-2: Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.

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This site is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Award #1907471 and #1315995