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What Is A Watershed?

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The beautiful thing about being in such a big space with flowing water is that we can actually follow the water without worry about being on private property. When we began to discuss the flow of the water students had a few ideas.

Teacher: “Where does the water start? Where does the water go?”
Jake, 11: “I think the water starts up at the top of the lake and goes down and around and then back into the lake.”
William, 11: “But then how will it go uphill?”
Andrew, 11: “I think the water flows that way.”

This discussion began after we had taken the time to explore a few different sites along the stream. The students led the way to where they thought the stream began and where they thought they could access the stream. From there, we began to look at maps of the lake and stream to see if we could determine where it ended and where it began.

What is a watershed

After our investigation of the maps, the question was asked, “What is a watershed?” A few students had prior knowledge of a watershed from a previous Watersheds Science class that was offered at Voyagers’ in years past. Jake said, “It’s where the water goes.” From there, we began to make our own watersheds, to see where the water goes.

"See, the water flows through here and goes out into the sea! I'm gonna make a dam!" Liam, age 11, constructs his watershed and tests his theories on how the water moves through his design.

“See, the water flows through here and goes out into the sea! I’m gonna make a dam!” Liam, age 11, constructs his watershed and tests his theories on how the water moves through his design.

"This is the Acorn Queen. Pour the water here, at the top." Madison, 12,

Creates a few rivers branching out from her “kingdom” Madison, 12

Once the students were done creating their own watersheds, we poured a bucket of water around the perimeter to represent the rain and to see how the water flowed through their watersheds.

A group of students examines the flow and quality of a downstream access point. We found an old bridge that students used to cross the stream, but it looks like it needs a little work.


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To take our activity of building watersheds a step further, after each student made their own watershed, the group made a collective watershed that held each of his or her towns or villages. Within the border of the watershed, which was sectioned off by logs that represented mountains, each student created a village in which the water would flow through. When they were ready, we brought out a bucket and poured water around the watershed to represent rain. The rain flooded the watershed and filled the rivers.The students went through a number of trials and building phases to change the flow of water.

Liam, 11: “I’ve got an idea, how about you connect your draining system to my draining system and then they will connect to one big stream.”
Andrew, 11: “Ok, let’s see”
Jake, 11: “William look at this, I made a little hole here. This is where the water goes, and then it flows into there”
William, 11: “Then how does it flow into this part?”
Jake, 11: “I can just make another hole here”

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