What about clouds?

Mr. Myers’s fourth-grade class has been discussing evaporation and rain as part of a unit on the water cycle. On this day, he asks the students what they think happens in a cloud.

Jordan"What's in a cloud that makes it hold the water?"

Alyssa responds that clouds collect water and it rains when the clouds get too heavy. Jordan starts to answer the teacher’s question, but then asks her own question about how a cloud holds water.

"Yeah, coz it’s light as a feather. "

Trying to draw other students into the conversation, Mr. Myers asks Jordan to repeat her question. Elea adds that a cloud is “light as a feather,” and so she doesn’t think it does hold water. Jordan supposes the water could be a gas in a cloud and “something happens” for it to turn into a liquid when it rains. Still trying to draw others in, Mr. Myers again asks Jordan to repeat her idea. This time, Jordan argues: “the water would be too heavy for a cloud, and everyone says it’s light.”

"It just holds as much as it can."

When Alyssa speaks of a cloud holding “as much as it can,” Jordan and Elea speak directly to her, without waiting for Mr. Myers. They turn to face each other, asking questions and presenting arguments. With increasing animation, Elea and Jordan insist that there needs to be a sensible mechanism for how a cloud holds water.

At this point, Mr. Myers interrupts to support what the girls are doing but to ask that they make space for other students.

"What you guys just did is something I tried… to get you guys to do."

After Mr. Myers finishes speaking, the students return to speaking to him rather than to each other. When Alyssa still doesn’t address how a cloud holds water, the intensity quickly returns as Jordan and Elea challenge her to answer their question. As the conversation continues, other students join in to consider how water can be in a cloud. Alyssa challenges the idea that clouds are “that light” because of her experience that it’s bumpy when a plane goes through a cloud. Elea is not convinced, saying you can put your hand through a cloud.