What is a Watershed?

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SWBAT define a watershed and explain how water collects.

Big Idea

Water in our environment follows a predictable path towards larger bodies of water. What we do in our watershed affects water quality.

Warm Up

20 minutes

I begin this activity by showing students watershed picture cards which show a different biome where water impacts life. I give a different picture to each table group and ask them to  use the watershed record sheet to record their ideas of how and where water is / might be moving in their pictured environment. I ask students to accompany their thinking with an illustration of how water moves in their picture.

A video of one student group discussing their picture card can be found here

Guided Practice

30 minutes

After students complete their entrance activity, I provide time for the students to share their thinking with their classmates. I display each picture on the document camera and ask the students to describe the way that water moves in the pictured environment. I record on the white board all places where students state that water moves or is stored. Some groups, particularly those given pictures of dry environments, may struggle to identify any evidence of water in their environment. 

Next, I guide students in creating a definition of a watershed. I define a watershed as an area where all water flows together into a larger body of water. We discuss how some watersheds are small (like the watershed where our school is located) and that some are large. I display a map of the United States and ask students to identify any geographical features that might divide the United States into smaller watersheds. The key understanding I want kids to develop is that the United States is divided by the Rocky Mountains into two major watersheds. I then ask students to trace a path water might follow on the Western side of the Rocky Mountains and on the Eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Students must gain the understanding that water flows from rivers to the ocean. 


10 minutes

At the conclusion of this lesson, my goals are that students can define a watershed, can discuss the boundaries between watershed, and have a deeper understanding of water's movement through our environment. To check for understanding, I ask students to complete the watershed exit ticket. I use this exit ticket as a quick formative assessment.