University of Waterloo
200 University Ave. W.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 32469
Visitors are always welcome, no matter what age! We have lots of fun and exciting things to look at, all the way from gorgeous mineral crystals to big terrifying dinosaurs!
Our museum is open weekdays (Monday - Friday) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Learn more about:
Also check out our Dinosaurs, Ice Age Mammals and other Prehistoric Animals!
Want the chance to get your own minerals, rocks and fossils? Tell your parents about our annual Gem & Mineral show!
The Earth formed many billion years ago starting out as an accumulation of meteorites. It has been bombarded by meteorites since. It is made up of three layers. They are:
A mineral is made of the same substance all the way through. There are about 3000 known minerals on earth and many are essential for improving the way we live our lives!
A rock is made up of two or more minerals. Click here to learn more about Rock!
There are three types of rocks. The Rock Cycle can be used to explain how rocks change from one type to another.
What do you see when you look up into the night sky? Do you ever see stars? Let’s start at the most important star in your life: the sun.
That’s right; the sun is a star too! It is very hot, and a lot bigger than earth. All of the planets travel around it! We believe that the sun formed about 5 billion years ago.
Why is the sun important?
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. It is very small and it has no moon. The entire planet is only slightly bigger than our Earth moon. It is made out of rock and it has not changed much since it was first formed. If we look at the surface of the planet we see a lot of craters, formed from asteroids hitting the planet!
Venus is the next furthest from the sun. It is very similar in size to earth. Have you ever heard about the greenhouse effect? It is currently causing our planet to warm up more than usual. This happened on Venus too. Venus had a lot of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere (a lot more than we do!) and all the heat from the sun got trapped under a thick layer of clouds. Because the heat has nowhere to go, Venus gets hotter and stays hot!
Earth is next to Venus. Our planet is very unique because it is the only one known to be able to support life.
Mars sits next to Earth. There is no water on Mars at this time, but we think that it used to have large lakes or even oceans on it! Mars has two tiny moons which orbit close to it.
Jupiter is the biggest planet. It is made up of 90% Hydrogen, and 10% helium. Jupiter is well known for its “red spot” which can be seen from space. It is believed that this red spot is an ancient storm of swirling winds which has lasted now for hundreds of years. The red spot is big enough to hold two Earths!
Saturn is smaller than Jupiter, but still much larger than earth. Saturn is well known for its rings, which are made up of small particles (rocks, ice, water and gases) circling the planet.
Uranus appears blue because its upper atmosphere is made up of methane. The planet has coloured bands, but they are hidden. Uranus spins differently than the other planets. It spins sideways.
Neptune is also blue because of the methane gas in its atmosphere. It also has the fastest winds of any other planet (recorded winds of 2000 km/s)!
Pluto is a dwarf planet and not thought of as a real planet anymore. It appears to spin on its side, with its equator pointing up and down and the poles pointing to either side. Pluto is by far, smaller than any of the planets. It has one moon orbiting it. No satellites have ever visited Pluto, but there is one on its way!
What happens to the rain after it hits the ground? Where does it go? Where did it come from? Let’s start at the beginning!
We don’t lose or gain any water. The water that we have we got when the earth was just being formed. This means that the water in your cup has been around for many hundreds of millions of years. It gets recycled through a process called the water cycle.
Have you ever left a glass of water out on the table for a few days before? If so, did you notice all of the water slowly disappear? This is called evaporation. The liquid water is turning to gas and floating away!
The evaporated water floats up into the sky and combines with small pieces of dust. When the water and the dust collect, they form clouds in the sky.
Transpiration: Lakes, rivers and open cups of water aren’t the only places that the clouds get water from. Water also comes from plants! The plants take water out of the ground through their roots and then they “sweat” through their leaves! This is called transpiration!
When the water is in the clouds it can’t stay in its gas form for long. It is cold high up in the sky, so the water turns back into liquid. This process is called condensation.
Clouds can only hold so much water. When they get really full they release the water as precipitation.
Precipitation can be rain, snow, hail, sleet, or any other kind of water that falls from the sky.
4. Ground Water and Runoff
But where does the water go when it hits the ground? That’s a harder question to answer.
When the rain hits cement, like when it lands on a road or a sidewalk, it stays in one place and collects in a puddle. This is why we have storm drains on the side of the road for the water to go into. They give all of the water a place to go so that our roads don’t get too flooded. These storm drains collect the water and then release it into streams, lakes, rivers and oceans. We have to be very careful about what we put in these drains because the fish in the lakes, rivers and oceans will get sick if we put bad things in them.
When the rain falls on grass, plants or dirt it doesn’t collect. Why? We will call these places “green spaces”. Just think of them as giant sponges, they soak up all the water and slowly let it travel through the ground. In Waterloo we actually get our drinking water from the ground! We have lots of long straws (called wells) which suck up all kinds of water from under the ground.
Sometimes when it rains a lot then the ground cannot soak up all the water in time and it runs off the land and into streams, oceans and lakes. This is called runoff.
When it snows the same things happen, but the water stays in one spot until it melts and then it travels through the water cycle.
Water sometimes collects and waits in one place for a really long time. This is called accumulation. Water in oceans and lakes sometimes spends thousands of years in one place until it is evaporated again.