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Photo by Dan Meyers via Unsplash


Climate Change


3rd, 4th, 5th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences


100 minutes

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, Oregon


Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Water Is Life: Know Your Local Watershed

Last Updated:
Feb 29, 2024
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In this lesson, students learn how human activities impact watersheds, and what communities can do to keep the watershed healthy.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students think about how they use water in their everyday life and the important role that their local watershed plays in their community.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students complete two hands-on activities to understand how watersheds work and the impact that human activities have on watersheds.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students write a poem, short story, or letter about the importance of watershed health and share it with their local watershed council.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson provides opportunities for social-emotional check-ins so that students can recognize and understand their feelings as they learn about human-caused problems in watersheds.

  • Students will work effectively in small groups.

  • Students will feel empowered as they learn how to protect their local watershed and educate others about the importance of keeping the watershed healthy.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the water cycle. The following resources can help students who are unfamiliar with the topic:

  • Students should be able to read a map.

  • Teacher will need to gather the following items for each small group for the two Crumpled Paper Watershed activities:

    • 2 sheets of blank paper

    • 1 spray bottle filled with water

    • A black, brown, red, and blue water-soluble marker


  • Students can work on the two Crumpled Paper Watershed activities in mixed-ability groups, pairs, or individually.

  • You can tailor the written response activity in the Inspire section to suit students’ needs. For example, stronger writers can be tasked with including three or more terms from the glossary in their response.

  • In this lesson, students are required to share their written responses with their local watershed council. You can change how students share their written responses. Further, you can require that students share their responses in more than one way (e.g., watershed council, social media post, newspaper article, etc.)

Scientist Notes

This lesson allows students to learn about watersheds, their spatial distribution, and the role they play in improving water quality. Students will also learn about ways of protecting their local watersheds from pollution and other harmful human activities. The materials, maps, and activities embedded in the lesson were thoroughly reviewed, and this lesson has passed our science credibility process.


Note On Standards:

This lesson is aligned to Oregon standards. Review the aligned standards directly in the lesson plan document and teacher slideshow.

Discover more on the Oregon Climate Education Hub.
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