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Elementary Science

Watershed Activities

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Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

Hi all, Prior to this semester, I didn't know what a watershed was. I grew up in an area that didn't have them, but I will be teaching in an area where the Chesapeake Bay is a huge influence. I'd love to hear of any activities or resources that you might have to share. The watershed project will be a semester-long or a year-long unit that will be pieced together in smaller lessons through the unit. Any support is majorly appreciated!! Tonya

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

The April 2004 Science Scope journal has a great article entitled "Watershed Investigations" that has very detailed instructions on doing numerous activities. Just do a search on "watershed activities" and it will come right up for you. Good luck.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Tonya,
You might be interested in the discussion thread Water Water Everywhere...
There are several additional NLC resources mentioned there.
Also, if you are not familiar with the SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Program), there is a module called Fruitvale that is a great unit on groundwater pollution.
I think it is outstanding that you are teaching about watersheds. Tieing it into pollution and the water cycle are natural connections that can be made. If you have students who get their drinking water supply from their own wells, the Fruitvale unit becomes very meaningful to them.

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Hi Tonya, Are you aware of the Chesapeake bay Foundation? ( They offer field trips to the bay and have an extensive website with information you might be able to use

Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

Thanks everyone. I'm looking for a project idea that my students could work to implement. This could be locally in the school or within the community. We do have access to the water areas around us. I'm hoping to dig my fingers into a unit-long project that would be cumulative throughout the unit and give them a sense of accomplishment and success. Any ideas?

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Hi Tonya,
You could take monthly data sets and have the kids compare how things change over the course of a year (water and air temp, DO, etc).

You also might want to consider participating in citizen science project such as World Water Monitoring Day or in Stroud Water Research Center's Leaf Pack Network.

World Water MOnitoring Day involves reporting basic water conditions; people from all over the world participate . This builds student awareness of water and the variables that affect it. The site also contains Lesson Plans that you might find helpful.

The Leaf Pack Network involves looking at leaf packs that have been in the water (in a stream, for example) for a length of time. The leaf pack is examined for evidence of macroinvertebrates. The findings are then used to determine the relative health of the water based on macroinvertebrate biodiversity.

Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

Patricia -- thank you for those resources! THey sound great. I'll take some time to review them and begin to incorporate it into my curriculum.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points


You might also want to check out resources available through Project WET. I have used some of their activities for informal education, but many of the activities would also be great for the classroom. They have materials for all ages, K-12, and many of the activities for middle school might be adapted for elementary. The curriculum deals with all aspects of water, including surface and groundwater, and their interconnections.

They just released a new edition of their rather substantial manual. I don't know if you can obtain just the book - they like to have you take a short training session, but the sessions are often run locally by non-profits including nature preserves, Girl and Boy Scouts, and 4H. They are located on the web at

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

I was just looking through some of my materials, and I might also suggest the book "Watershed Investigations: 12 Labs for High School Science" which contains a wealth of ideas for watershed studies. It is available as a book, e-book, or individual chapters through NSTA. The topics covered include: • Modeling Glacier Features with Sand • Glacial Features of a Watershed • Plant Identifications • Wetland Delineation • Measuring Plant Allelopathy • Stream Channel Morphology • Calculating Stream Discharge • Flood Frequency Analysis for a River • Comparison of Phosphorous Levels in Stream Sediments • Macroinvertebrate Identification • Factors that Affect Eutrophication • Groundwater Contamination If you want to investigate just a topic or two, you might download a chapter or two. I have adapted some of these activities for middle school, and most could be presented as inquiry activities.

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