Water & Watersheds

Teaching about the water cycle can be made more realistic and valuable for students by incorporating what they know about water-where it comes from, what happens to it after they use it, and what problems are associated with its use. Watersheds, the land area draining into a single body of water, can be considered a basic unit of the landscape that determines water availability, movement, and quality. When students study watersheds, they learn in a personal way about the importance of water, and how land use affects surface and groundwater.

Our Runoff

Unit Plan: 
2 class periods
Schoolyard and Classroom

Student collect data about their schoolyard, neighborhood and town to estimate the amount of water that runs off these places into a nearby stream.



Infiltration Investigation

  1. Using a map of your school and schoolyard, trace a simple map and photocopy over the existing map on the Infiltration Investigation worksheet.
  2. In groups of 5 or so students,  head outside and have them choose 3 cover types in the schoolyard
  3. Ask them to predict what will happen when the group pours 2 cups of water on each cover type.
  4. Pour the same amount of water on each cover type and have them describe what actually happened.
  5. Have them create a legend of their cover types and color in the schoolyard map. Depending on the most dominant cover type, they can answer the question in the text box. 
  6. Introduce the terms "permeable" and "impermeable".
  7. Give them the neighborhood mapping homework assignment to reinforce this investigation.

Runoff calculation of town/city

  1. Print 2 copies of a map of your town, city or village. If possible, print on 11x17 sized paper. Cut each map into 4. 
  2. Give one quarter of the map to a group of 2 to 3 students.
  3. Ask them to place their transparency grid over the map and mark permeable and impermeable squares with 2 different colors. If a square has both cover types, have them color it with the cover type that dominates that square.
  4. When completed, have them add up the squares for each color
  5. Depending on their math skills, students can calculate volume of runoff in a number of different ways. Refer to the grade-specific worksheet (below) for details.

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