Introduction—Watershed Walk

Summary: This topic guide focuses on introducing students to watersheds by experiencing the one right outside their door. Students begin by using mapping programs and brief activities to learn about the water cycle and how water moves through the watershed. Students will then engage in a guided watershed walk on local school grounds to identify features and observe the water cycle in action.

Concepts to teach: Reading maps, local geography, water cycle, watershed features and surfaces.

Goals: Students will learn about how water moves through their local watershed and its related features.

Science—3.1P.1, 4.2P.1, 5.2P.1
Social Science—SS.03.GE.01, SS.03.GE.02, SS.03.GE.03, SS.03.GE.04, SS.05.GE.03.03, SS.05.GE.04, SS.05.GE.07.02

Specific Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to name their home and/or school watershed
  2. Students will be able to identify the main body of water closest to their home and/or school.
  3. Students will be able to define at least four features of a watershed (e.g., rivers, creeks, soils, vegetation, slope, etc.)
  4. Students will be able to describe how water cycles through the local watershed.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Watershed Walk was developed by OCEP Leadership team members and contains the activity description as well as a copy of the “Coastal Water Cycle Journey” (adapted from Project WET’s “Imagine!” activity) that takes students through the life of a water droplet.
  • Quests are interpretive clue-directed hunts that get people outside exploring their communities.
    • Watershed Quest—This lesson plan from PBS KQED outlines activities essential to place-based understanding of your community’s watershed, and then students create a Quest to share their learning with others.
    • If you make your own Watershed Quest, share your creation with Oregon Coast Quests
  • Google earth has many different features and layers that allows students to “fly” to any place around the world while exploring their local watershed and even look at historical imagery if available.
  • EPA Surf Your Watershed—find a myriad of information about your local watershed. Type in your zip code to discover stream flow data from USGS, watershed assessments, and even demographic information.

Additional water cycle activities:


  • Pre/Post Watershed Knowledge survey
  • Use or develop formative assessment probes to gauge student understanding about the water cycle. The following probes from Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, vol. 3 could be applied or modified:
    • What are clouds made of
    • Rainfall
    • Where did the water come from
    • Wet jeans and vignette
  • To obtain Uncovering Student Ideas in Science publications or access sample chapters, visit the NSTA website
  • Evaluate completed student worksheets as a way to gauge understanding and address any misconceptions about watershed knowledge.