Make a Mini Water Cycle


The water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is the process in which water moves and changes on Earth. All the water on Earth, whether it’s the water that we drink, the water that sustains the ocean or the rain that falls from the sky, has been around for millions of years. Because of the atmosphere, water molecules are trapped here on Earth for us, and all other life forms, to drink, use and enjoy.

There are three states of water: solid (ice), liquid and gas (water vapor). Water changes from one state to another because of the application of heat.  As you heat up the molecules in ice, it melts and becomes water and eventually evaporates into water vapor. Removing that heat causes water to condense and reverse this process.  This is the water cycle.

You can easily make your own mini water cycle at home using just a few materials. Here is what you need:

  • 1 plastic tub
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 small rock or marble
  • 1 roll of cling wrap plastic (or similar)
  • 1 roll of wide tape to seal the still
  • Water_cycleSoil or sand
  • 1 – 2  cups of water


  1. Add your soil to the plastic tub.
  2. Position the plastic cup in the center of the tub, partially submerged in the soil for stability.
  3. Sprinkle 1-2 cups of water over the soil.
  4. Seal the tub with cling wrap and tape. Add a pebble or large marble directly above the cup forming a depression in the cling wrap.
  5. Place the solar still in a still and sunny location. Observe your still throughout the day. What do you notice happening?

Follow-up Questions:

  1. How does water get into the oceans?
  2. What are clouds? What are clouds made of?
  3. How does rain form?

Did you build your own water cycle? We want to see! Send us a picture at and be featured on our blog.

Are you a teacher who wants to use environmental education lessons in your classroom? Checkout Project SWELL: a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways. The project helps teachers empower students about how to understand and improve the condition of San Diego waterways.

We Receive $14,000 Grant to Expand Project SWELL in Oceanside


What do you remember about your elementary school science classes?

I remember sitting in class, reading textbooks while the teacher droned on and on about some obscure science concept that was dense, dry and so distant from my life that I could never really envision employing the concepts that I had learned. For many students, this is their day-to-day interaction with science.

But for students in Oceanside, it doesn’t have to be.

Thanks to a $14,000 grant, awarded to San Diego Coastkeeper by The Oceanside Charitable Foundation, an affiliate of The San Diego Foundation with support from The McLaughlin Endowment Fund of The San Diego Foundation, more students will get access to engaging lessons in science and environmental education through Project SWELL. The funding will allow Project SWELL to be implemented in 5th and 6th grade classes throughout Oceanside Unified School District, provide teachers with professional development, online access to the curriculum and materials for hands-on learning.


Project SWELL was developed through a ground-breaking partnership between San Diego CoastkeeperThink Blue (the City of San Diego) and the San Diego Unified School District. Project SWELL is a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways using hands-on engagement and inquiry based learning. The project helps teachers empower students to understand and improve the condition of San Diego County waterways. The Project SWELL curriculum is customized to the City of Oceanside and helps students to address the distinct challenges that their city faces when dealing with water supply, quality and conservation issues and gives the students tangible ways to address these issues and impact their community ‘right now.’

Each SWELL unit of study:

  • Educates students about local watersheds
  • Promotes stewardship for our natural environment
  • Aligns with California State Science Standards

Currently, over 160,000 students (grades K, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) in San Diego Unified School district and over 1,600 students (grade 5) in Oceanside Unified School District have access to Project SWELL in their classroom. With this additional funding, Project SWELL will expand to include 6th grade, another 1,600 students.

Are you a teacher who wants to use Project SWELL in your classroom? Learn more at

Walk the Watershed at Otay Valley Regional Park

Pulling-iceplant.jpgOn Saturday, more than 200 community members descended upon Otay Valley Regional Park for San Diego Coastkeeper’s 5th annual Walk the Watershed event.  What is a watershed you ask?  A watershed is the ecosystem in which we all live including the wildlife, surface waters, water, water quality, and of course, our neighborhoods.

Participants had the opportunity to learn about San Diego’s watersheds at the education stations along the education tour through Otay Valley Regional Park, culminating in ice-plant removal as the restoration project.

It was definitely a joint effort to make Walk the Watershed a success.  Partner organizations included the Unified Port of San Diego, Metropolitan Water District, WiLDCOAST, Elementary Institute of Science, Otay Valley Regional Park and park rangers, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, City of Chula Vista, Allied Waste, The Girl Scouts of San Diego County, REI, and I Love a Clean San Diego, and of course the group of rock star volunteers.And what event is complete without tamales, a dance performance, and a few words from San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and Council Member David Alvarez?  The best part is, it was free to the public!  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning learning about your environment, meeting organizations in the community that care about preserving and protecting your environment, and breathing in the fresh air.Ranger-with-kids-and-logo._jpgGirl-scouts-learn-in-the-field.jpeg

How can San Diego Coastkeeper help your future?

donate-water-quality-labHere at San Diego Coastkeeper, volunteer opportunities go a long way.  It is no secret that San Diego Coastkeeper depends on our super star volunteers to help us achieve the organization’s goals and protect water quality in San Diego, but what can these opportunities do for YOU?

Our 2011 volunteer of the year Taya Lazootin was recently accepted into two prestigious graduate school programs, the first being the Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami Florida and the second is the Geography Department at San Diego State University.  Choosing a path a bit closer to home, Taya will pursue a Master’s degree in Geography where she will study coral reef management while researching marine protected areas for Indo-Pacific reefs near developing island communities.  Sounds AMAZING, right?  This program is currently ranked number 7 in the country and leads to a joint PhD program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Clearly, Taya is a rockstar!

You might be wondering, ‘How do I that?’ and you will be happy to know, San Diego Coastkeeper can help.  Taya is not the first volunteer from our Water Quality Monitoring program and lab who went on to graduate school with relevant work experience under her wing.  Lab intern Melissa Ta is writing her thesis using the research she did in our Water Quality Monitoring for her graduate school program at San Diego State University’s School of Public Health.  She has a pretty cool blog of her own, too.  Needless to say, our volunteers are intelligent, driven folks who followed their love of the environment straight to us, and San Diego Coastkeeper is proud to say we helped them achieve their goals.

Whether it is in the lab, office, legal clinic, marine conservation or public relations and social media realm that you are interested in gaining more experience, San Diego Coastkeeper can help.  As much as we love our volunteers and the work they do, we are equally as interested in helping them in their pursuits, whether they be academic or personal enrichment.  If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to help your future while protecting San Diego’s water resources, let us know by emailing volunteer@sdcoastkeeper for more information.

Teaching Teachers to Teach SWELL

There are many ways to approach environmental education. One (and in my view, the most important) is to ensure students have opportunities to see, touch, smell and taste Mother Nature while hiking, swimming or participating in an outdoor activity. Another method is to bring guest speakers into the classroom to entertain students and teach them about animals, plants, watersheds or some other engaging topic. The model of Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) is unique and effective: it provides hands on activity kits to classrooms and trains teachers to educate about the local aquatic environment as part of their science curriculum. Lessons actively involve students in learning about water supply and conservation, pollution prevention, and the local coastal habitat and wildlife, while reinforcing classroom principles such as the scientific method.

In early November, Project SWELL partners City of San Diego Storm Water & Transportation Department – Think Blue, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and San Diego Coastkeeper joined forces to offer professional development workshops for elementary teachers in 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades. The response from the workshops was overwhelmingly positive and while most teachers were new to SWELL, a few returning teachers came to refresh and re-engage with the program. A fourth grade teacher from Edison Elementary School, Rebecca Brown, took a moment to share her experiences with SWELL in the video on the left.


According to a recent study, educators in Los Angeles are spending less time teaching science and are receiving less training to do so. Teachers across the country are pressed for time, balancing language and math testing requirements with special needs students and second language learners. We, San Diegans, often insist that we have very little in common with Los Angeles, but the SDUSD is the second largest school district in the state (16th in the nation) and experiences many of the same woes as its big sister LA Unified. Yet a few SDUSD Board of Education Members believe strongly in the value of science in preparing tomorrow’s leaders and SDUSD science scores are above average when compared with the rest of the state. Thanks to the board and educator leadership, strong partnerships and generous donors, valuable programs like SWELL continue to thrive and train teachers even in periods of budget cuts.

Just like many students, many teachers love learning about science. And the more they feel fluent with the content, equipped with the materials to teach lessons, the more likely they are to pass along a love of learning science. Project SWELL trainings will continue each Spring and Fall for SDUSD teachers. Explore the recently revamped Project SWELL website for new developments, access to online curriculum for SDUSD teachers and contact us with any questions or suggestions.