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Class Projects   Watersheds


Every day, Americans use water for drinking, washing, cooking, irrigating crops, and other life-sustaining tasks. With so much dependence on water, it is crucial to understand how land usage in the watershed areas impacts local bodies of water - and subsequently our drinking water.

In this project, students learn about watersheds by researching, mapping, and surveying their local watershed area. They then choose a body of water from within the watershed to determine its health. Along the way - students work with local officials, site monitoring groups, and experts to determine the health of their chosen site. Their findings, along with recommendations of what works and doesn't work in water conservation, serve as the core of their student-designed public awareness campaign!

This project incorporates elements of the scientific method.

Grade level
Middle school, but can be adapted to suit other grades

Time allotment
Up to 1 semester

Subject matter
Main focus on environmental science, with language arts and social studies connections

Learning objectives
Students will:
  • Learn about the importance of watersheds and how they impact other bodies of water such as groundwater.

  • Identify and analyze the local watershed.

  • Evaluate the health of a local body of water and its effect on the environment.

  • Plan, publicize, and execute a project to create awareness of the condition of the local watershed and body of water.

  • Gain an understanding of elements of the scientific method and use elements of it to conduct steps of the project.

  • Use technology to work cooperatively.
  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
    Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning
    Strand 1—Questioning and Analysis Skills (Guidelines A, B, C, D, E, G); Strand 2.2—The Living Environment (A, C, D); Strand 2.3—Humans and Their Societies (C, E); Strand 2.4—Environment and Society (A, B); Strand 3.1—Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues (A, B, C, D); Strand 3.2—Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills (A, B, C, D); Strand 4—Personal and Civic Responsibility (B, C).

  • Technology Foundation Standards for Students
    Standard 1: Basic operations and concepts; Standard 3: Technology productivity tools; Standard 4: Technology communications tools; Standard 5: Technology research tools.


Using what they've determined about the health of their local watershed, students raise awareness in their explaining the importance of clean water and the activities that contribute to keeping it that way (and discouraging the ones that don't!). Students communicate their findings by creating a Web page, or written or PowerPoint presentation, and share this information by distributing flyers, visiting nearby schools, or contacting a local planning board. An illustrated article, scrapbook, Web site, or video serves as a reflection piece for students at the end of the project.

Computer resources

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • RealPlayer plug-in. Download for free at
Materials needed
  • WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT video (optional)
  • Data records (Excel, or notebook or log book)
  • Drawing paper and markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Software for presentations (all optional) - Word; Excel; PowerPoint; or Quark
  • Equipment to document project for final assessment (all optional): camera, video, or audio recorder
  • Site testing kits (vary according to your experiment design), but most likely will include a water and soil testing kit - you may be able to borrow kits from your local university, or try the sites listed in resources for cheap or free resources
Online resources

Teacher tool Web sites

Soil testing kit Water testing kits Bookmark these Web sites for student research Continue to Procedures page

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