Keywords: watersheds, Pennsylvania watersheds, forest benefits; Grade Level: eighth and ninth grade; Total Time for Lesson: Two 48 minute-class periods; Setting: classroom

Concepts to Be Covered

  • Water that is not evaporated or absorbed into the soil, will drain from the land by way of watersheds. Watersheds are the natural sloping land that water follows as it drains off of the land.
  • There are six major watersheds in Pennsylvania: Lake Erie, Ohio, Susquehanna, Potomac, Genesee, and the Delaware.
  • Pennsylvania watersheds connect with much larger watersheds elsewhere in the United States to empty into the oceans.

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will understand the concept of watershed and be able to explain how water is drained from the land.
  • Students will be able to identify the 6 major watersheds of Pennsylvania and locate them on a map.
  • Students will know in which watershed they reside.
  • Students will locate and identify where each watershed empties into the ocean.

Materials Needed

  • a large drawn version of a Pennsylvania physical map for the front of the classroom
  • map of North America for the classroom
  • research tools: computer with Internet
  • outline of a Pennsylvania physical map for each student

Teaching Model: Group Research, Class Discussion


  1. Classroom discussion of watersheds--definition and importance.
  2. Divide the class into six groups. Each group is assigned one of Pennsylvania's six major watersheds (Lake Erie, Ohio, Genesee, Susquehanna, Potomac, and Delaware).
  3. Each student is given an outline of a Pennsylvania physical map. Using the computer lab and or library, each student is to determine the boundary of their watershed and draw that boundary on their map and also discover the journey the water travels in their watershed until it eventually empties into the ocean.
  4. When all of the students are finished, they will meet in their groups to compare their findings. Once they all agree with the location, they are to draw the boundary on the large classroom map. When all groups are finished, meet as a class to draw the boundaries of all of the watersheds onto their map. Have each group explain the journey of their water to the ocean. As a class, locate approximately where they live and put a * on the map to represent the location.


Completed maps and groups presentation of students' research.


Wimer, Lynnette, James Finley, Steven Jones, and Ellen O'Donnell (1994). Forest Stewardship Terminology . University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program, The Pennsylvania State University.

Water and Forests: The Role Trees Play in Water Quality. Vol. 1, Forests Number 2, Water and Forests, Georgia Pacific, 11/97.


Susan McKissic, Slippery Rock Middle School, Slippery Rock, PA