Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Logo; Click to return to our Home Page.

Water Motion Lab

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: Archaeological Documentation

Grade Level: 5-12

Common Core Standards:
RS.3. Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Content Areas: Science

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minute period

Learning Goals: In this activity students will observe how water currents are produced and behave in a closed system.


  1. Have students read in advance the article about Moving Water or another text describing convection currents.  Discuss how gravity, temperature, and wind create water motions in natural systems.  Describe how the class will attempt to create, observe, and record the motion of water in a lab setting.
  2. The observations can be made in small lab groups or as a whole class demonstration.
  3. Fill a large container  with water (aquarium, large baking pan, plastic mixing tray, small swimming pool).  Sprinkle an insoluble, neutrally buoyant material into the water to aid observations.
  4. Move the container back and forth, in a circular motion, or up and down to try and create different current patters.  Have students draw the patterns they can see on their lab sheet.  Have them identify specific terms as appropriate (e.g. current, seich, wave).
  5. Use a fan or blower try and create the same or new current patterns by passing the air stream over the surface of the water.  Have students record their results on their lab sheet.
  6. Have student summarize their findings in a discussion about the different ways they were able to influence the flow of water in the system.

Assessments: Informal assessment of participation, effort, and accuracy of lab sheets.

Materials/Resources: Water Motion Lab Sheets (pdf), Large Container, Water

Special Considerations: Students should wear lab glasses.  Care should be taken to ensure the safety of electrical cords near the water.

Students may want to learn more about currents in the oceans, atmosphere, and Earth’s crust.

Ocean waves can be both fascinating and terrifying.  Interested students might want to do a mini-research project  about storms as sea, surfing, “Rounding the Horn”, etc.

Students may want to explore the behavior of a more viscous liquid like oil, maple syrup, liquid soap.