Evaporation and condensation are two particularly difficult concepts for students to understand, especially young students who have not yet learned about atoms and molecules. To these learners, evaporation happens when water dries up or disappears. These students do not have a better way of explaining what happens to the water, so they default to explaining that the water disappears. Teaching about evaporation or other water-cycle processes can be particularly difficult because students can only see the visible parts of the process but not what is occurring at the molecular level. Evaporation, however, is an important process that brings freshwater to natural and human communities, and all students should understand how this happens and why it is important to our survival.
Watch this video of 3rd grade students in Auburn, California—an inland community. The purpose of this classroom video is to hear and think about student ideas about evaporation and how best to teach this concept.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Learning About Evaporation" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 35.