Keywords: watershed, stream, river, ocean, flow; Grade Level: Elementary—grade 2 through 5; Total Time Required: 1 and a half hours (1-2 class periods); Setting: classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will identify all of the watersheds to which they belong.
  • Students will read maps to identify bodies of water.
  • Students will order these bodies of water from smallest to largest, in order of flow.

Materials Needed

  • maps of area showing water ways
  • chart paper and markers
  • white construction paper
  • crayons or markers
  • pencils
  • book: Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean by Arthur Dorros
  • optional: picture postcards from various locations

State Standards Addressed: 4.1.4 A Watersheds and Wetlands: Identify various types of water environments; 4.3.4 C Environmental Health: Understand that the elements of natural systems are interdependent; 4.6.4 C Ecosystems and their Interactions: Identify how ecosystems change over time; 4.8.4 B Humans and the Environment: Know that environmental conditions influence where and how people live

Teaching Model: Literature tie-in/expansion

Subject Covered: science

Topics Covered: definition of watershed, flow of water


  1. Gather students and read aloud Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean by Arthur Dorros. Discuss water terms--brook, stream, river, ocean. Explain how water flows from a smaller body into a larger body. Define watershed as the area of land where water flows into a specific body of water. Point out each of the "watersheds" in the book.
  2. Display a local map that has bodies of water labeled. Ask what water is near our school? Point out the correct body of water on the map. Follow it to the next largest body of water and keep going until it reaches the ocean or terminal lake. Record each body of water on chart paper, in the order which they are encountered.
  3. (Day 2, if time does not allow for completion at one time.) Explain the project to the class. Ask if students have gone on vacation. Explain that many times as tourists we get postcards to send to people or to save as souvenirs of our trip. Today we will be tourists in our own watersheds and we would like postcards from each place to tell about our trip. We will need to make these as a class (or make several sets, if class size is large). Show examples of picture postcards from various locations, if desired.
  4. Directions for project: Have students use crayons or markers to create a picture of each watershed on construction paper. Each postcard should be labeled with the name of the place (for example "Greetings from Spruce Creek!"). You may need to brainstorm a list of distinguishing features or places of each watershed on the chart paper from before. Depending on class size, assign students one postcard each and have teams of students work to create multiple sets of cards, or have students work in pairs or small groups and make one set for the whole class. For example if there are 6 bodies of water for your watershed list and there are 24 students in the class, your class could create 4 sets of postcards by having 4 different students create a postcard for each body of water. Or you could have groups of 4 students work together to create one postcard and only make one class set of postcards.

As an example for my local school the watersheds would include: Slab Cabin Run Spring Creek Bald Eagle Creek West Branch Susquehanna River Susquehanna River Chesapeake Bay Atlantic Ocean


Have the entire class or teams (depending on how the project was divided) place their postcard sets in order from most local (smallest) to largest watershed. Then display in order.


If you would like to include a writing activity, have students write messages on their postcards about what they are doing on their "vacations".

Literature/Sources Cited

Dorros, A. (1991). Follow the water from brook to ocean . New York: Harper Collins.


Chandra Weigle, State College Friends School