Activity One: Introduction to Watershed Science
Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean
; t-chart on chart paper prepared with question (see below); student science journals
Begin by asking students the question posted on the chart, “Where does water go when it rains?” Record any answers and ideas on the left side titled “what we know.” Read aloud
Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean
by Arthur Dorros, which explains that water moves downhill and describes the waterways it may travel through before it reaches the ocean. Return to the chart of responses and on the right side section titled “what we’ve learned.
In their science journals, students should record the important vocabulary learned from the text that will allow them to discuss watershed science with appropriate terms: downhill, flows, brook, stream, ocean, springs, erosion, floods, dams, reservoir, mouth, pollution.
Where does water go when it rains?
What we know
What we’ve learned
Activity Two: Tracing the Veins of a Leaf – The Structure of a Watershed
Materials: green leaves in variety of shapes and sizes, images of watershed, sharpies, plastic wrap
Display a series of watershed images on with projector or on smart board from Google or You Tube. Suggestions are www.cserc.org, water.usgs.gov, USDA Forest Service. Show the structure of each watershed and follow the water from the top of the watershed to the outlet (lake or ocean). Hand out the leaves and sharpies and have the students turn the leaves to the underside and to orient the leaf with the stem pointing toward them. With their fingers first, the students will trace the “watershed” they find in the water system of the leaf. Once they have identified the stream order, they use sharpies to highlight the water systems within their leaf. Discuss what may be located around those waterways, using their background knowledge from Activity One to make some logical suggestions. Once the students have completed their tracing, they can wrap their leaf in plastic wrap, taking care to keep the leaf flat.
Activity Three: What Dissolves and What Does Not?
Materials: small jars with lids, sand, salt, baking soda, glitter, water, student science journals
Fill the jars ¾ of the way with water. In each, introduce a spoonful of one material. Students can take turns shaking the jars to see what dissolves and what does not? Discuss the idea that we can think of these as things that are introduced to the water and what might happen if they are. Discuss how material in the water dissolves (disappears but is still there) or does not. Students should document their learning in their journals, referring to the vocabulary learned in Activity One.
Activity Four: Making Groundwater
Materials: 2 large clear glasses or vases; sand; gravel or aquarium gravel; pitcher; water; 10oz clear plastic cups, one for each student
In each of the glass containers, layer sand and gravel alternating between the two until they are about ¾ of the way full. This will create an aquifer, which the layers of rock, soil and sand that contain water. Slowly pour water into one of the containers while the students observe how the water is making its way through the small openings as it goes down.
In the first container, continue pouring until it is full (above the aquifer). Next, slowly pour water into the second container, stopping about an inch below the top of the aquifer. The level of the water in the second container is the water table. Below that, the aquifer is saturated. The glass of the container in this demonstration acts as the impermeable rock. Create what would happen if it were to rain by very slowly adding a bit more water to the second container. Students will observe and record their observations. This demonstrates the recharging of the groundwater.
Students can repeat this experiment in groups of two, recreating the two models in clear plastic cups, using sand and gravel.
Keep the containers for several weeks. Students should be able to notice that in the first container, there will not be room for more water, but in the second, as the “ground” soaks up more water over time, more water can be added as long as it is never filled above the aquifer.
Activity Five: What Travels Through the Watershed? – Velcro Paddle Game
Materials: Several sets of Velcro paddles (purchased or homemade); collection of objects, many that will stick to the paddle, some that do not (soft balls, pieces of fabric, small plastic toys, etc.)
Distribute the paddles to students and have them line each side of the hallway (or standing opposite each other in the classroom). The remaining class members chose an object. The students with the paddles represent the stream and banks, the objects represent the good and bad things that travel through the stream. Students may decide what their object is: animal or insects, leaves, rocks, paper, plastic, or other ideas.
Have the students with the paddles move around and travel down through the line of students. They try to collect the items that are held in their classmates’ hands or that have been left on the floor. Some items will “stick” and some will not.
Ask the students what the stream has collected as it moves along. Have them discuss what this might mean in our environment and what steps we could take to keep our waters clean.