Rivers and Watershed

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SWBAT describe and demonstrate the movement of water through a watershed and then compare it to the river.

Big Idea

Watersheds are vital component to understanding Earth's systems. In our town, we are very dependent on the watershed and cities like Phoenix are too. Students get to explore their importance and what their role is.

Watershed Notes

10 minutes

I ask students to get out their science journals. Today we are going to create a set of notes to help us investigate and learn about a watershed. I am going to give them a brief idea of what it is, and have them put this in their notes. We will then go outside to simulate or act out a watershed. When we finish outside we will finish up our notes from what we learned.

I have them start by writing Watershed at the top of their notebook page. First, they need to know that water flows through this area depending on the seasons. So they can add seasons effect the water movement in their notebooks. We can use a map to determine the watershed by almost playing connect the dots with all the high areas. We will do this later. Rivers are effected by the watershed. This is all I give them for now and I ask them to walk outside with me.  

Creating a Watershed in People

20 minutes

This activity is adapted from the Project Wet curriculum, I love it because students get to be outside and move around while they learn. We have a small hill area where our playground is separated from the field. To do this activity it works best if you have a high and low area. 

I have my students stand at the top of the hill and ask them which direction water would flow right now if it was coming form where they were standing. We talk about water moving from a high area to a low area. I ask them for any examples they have seen that confirms this statement. 

Next, I move students from the main line at the top of the hill and have some of them heading down the hill sideways. I want the class to be able to touch fingertip to finger tip. I then move some students to the bottom of the hill and they will connect to the kids lined up sideways. I explain those at the bottom make up a river and those at the top are snow on a mountain top. The connecting kids in the middle are the little streams and tributaries that help the snow get to the river. 


Watersheds in Action

10 minutes

I have some scrap blue pieces of paper that I hand to the kids at the top of the hill. This is the snow they are holding. I ask the class what happens to these pieces in winter. Students are not sure, but think that it will stay snow. To help them, I ask what happens on our mountains in the winter. I ask the top group to hold their pieces. I now explain that it is spring, what is going to happen. Quickly they respond that the snow will begin to melt. I have every other student pass their paper to another students. They need to keep passing it so students can see the paper move to the river. I ask what they observed and they saw more water enter the river.

Next, I collect the strips again and hand back the paper and reply that it is now summer. Students realize that the paper is going to come from everyone at the top. We do this and you really see kids moving to pass paper. We briefly discuss what we saw. We do the same for fall but I ask how does the water get back to the top? We discuss the evaporation and how snow begins to form on the mountain in late fall. Instead of me taking them up, I chose a couple of students to be the cloud and gather a few strips from the rivers and streams. These students take the water to the top.

Watershed Wrap Up

5 minutes

We head back inside to discuss what they noticed and what they learned. The first thing students talk about is how important snow was to the river. They explain how water moved down the mountain. When they bring this up, I ask them what happens to all those little streams in the winter and fall? They understand that they dry up. We have lots of evidence around our school and forest areas. I ask students to think of when they see a stream fill up and then how it is gone when the rain quits. 

I explain that this flow of water from the top land area to a low point is a watershed. I ask the class what we should add to our science notebooks. I let students add their own notes from the experiment. I give them time to do this and we do a share out of what was added. I give them a second time to add more incase they heard something form a peer they want to add.