Introduction—Mapping Your Watershed

Summary: This laboratory activity is designed to help students use remote sensing imagery to explore and classify natural and human derived land uses in watershed ecosystems.

Concepts to teach: Interconnectedness, cycles, various coastal habitats

Goals: Students will look critically at their local landscape using remote sensing imagery and ground truth to identify habitats present in a coastal watershed and develop a classification scheme of natural and human derived land uses.

6.2E.1, 6.3S.1, 6.3S.2, 6.4D.1, 6.4D.3
7.2E.1, 7.2E.4, 7.3S.1, 7.3S.2, 7.3S.3, 7.4D.1, 7.4D.3
8.3S.2, 8.4D.1, 8.4D.2, 8.4D.3

Specific Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to describe what an orthographic photo is and why it is useful.
  2. Students will be able to explain in simple terms what GIS is and how it can be used to interpret data.
  3. Students will be able to explain what remote sensing is and why it can be useful in understanding coastal watersheds.
  4. Students will be able to identify land uses and explain how they relate to the overall watershed health.

Activity Links and Resources:


  • Check maps for understanding, clarity and usefulness. Remind students their maps are only useful if another person can pick it up and interpret it or they can use it weeks later and still understand what was being displayed.
  • Challenge students to calculate area of each habitat type shown on their maps
  • Have students work on an inquiry project using their data from their maps as a jumping off point or background for the study