Academic Standards Addressed by Watershed Decisions

A number of academic standards, national and state specific, can be addressed and enhanced through the use of the Watershed Decisions Activity.

Next Generation Science Standards

LS: Life Sciences

Middle School. Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

High School. Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

ESS: Earth and Space Sciences 

Middle School. Earth's Systems

Middle School. Human Impacts

High School. Earth's Systems

High School. Human Sustainability

ETS: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science 

Middle School. Engineering Design

High School. Engineering Design

NRC A Framework for K-12 Science Education

Science and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.

  • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena.
  • Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.
  • Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs.

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed world(s).

  • Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system.


Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

  • Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict phenomena.
  • Apply scientific principles to design an object, tool, process or system.

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

  • Design, evaluate, and refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.  
  • Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.


Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to constructing a convincing argument that supports or refutes claims for either explanations or solutions about the natural and designed world(s).

  • Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
  • Construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

  • Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.
  • Evaluate the evidence behind currently accepted explanations to determine the merits of arguments.
  • Construct an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).


Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Mathematical and computational thinking in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions.

  • Use mathematical and/or computational representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.
  • Use mathematical representations of phenomena or design solutions to support and revise explanations.
  • Create or revise a computational model or simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system.
  • Use mathematical models and/or computer simulations to predict the effects of a design solution on systems and/or the interactions between systems.


Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models.

  • Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.


Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis.

  • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data.

  • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.


Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Asking questions and defining problems in grades 6–8 builds on grades K–5 experiences and progresses to specifying relationships between variables, and clarifying arguments and models.

  • Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Asking questions and defining problems in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to formulating, refining, and evaluating empirically testable questions and design problems using models and simulations.

  • Analyze complex real-world problems by specifying criteria and constraints for successful solutions.


Disciplinary Core Ideas


LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

  • Anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

  • Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value.



ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems

  • All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.
  • Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes

  • Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.
  • Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity.
  • The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks.

ESS3.A: Natural Resources

  • Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

  • Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.
  • Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.
  • The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.
  • Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation.



ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

  • Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.
  • Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

  • When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem.
  • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.
  • Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors.
  • Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions.


Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and Effect

  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.
  • Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

Energy and Matter

  • Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

Stability and Change

  • Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and processes at different scales, including the atomic scale.
  • Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.
  • Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.
  • Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.


  • Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.
  • Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

  • The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.
  • Using the concept of orders of magnitude allows one to understand how a model at one scale relates to a model at another scale.

Systems and System Models

  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows— within and between systems at different scales.

Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science - Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

  • The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. Thus technology use varies from region to region and over time.
  • New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology.
  • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.
  • Engineers continuously modify these technological systems by applying scientific knowledge and engineering design practices to increase benefits while decreasing costs and risks.

Connections to Nature of Science - Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World

  • Science and technology may raise ethical issues for which science, by itself, does not provide answers and solutions.
  • Science knowledge indicates what can happen in natural systems—not what should happen. The latter involves ethics, values, and human decisions about the use of knowledge.
  •  Many decisions are not made using science alone, but rely on social and cultural contexts to resolve issues. 


Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards » Science & Technical Subjects » Grade 6-8


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).


Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

English Language Arts Standards » Science & Technical Subjects » Grade 9-10


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.


Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.

English Language Arts Standards » Science & Technical Subjects » Grade 11-12


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.


English Language Arts Standards » Speaking & Listening » Grade 6-12


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.



Standards for Mathematical Practice


Reason abstractly and quantitatively.


Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.


Model with mathematics.

Grade 6 » Ratios & Proportional Relationships


Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Grade 7 » Expressions & Equations


Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies.

Grade 7 » Ratios & Proportional Relationships


Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error.

High School: Number and Quantity » Quantities


Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.


Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling.

High School: Statistics & Probability » Making Inferences & Justifying Conclusions


Evaluate reports based on data.



Pennsylvania State Academic Standards Addressed (Environment & Ecology; Science & Technology)

4.2.7.A. Explain how water enters, moves through, and leaves a watershed.

  • Explain the concept of stream order.
  • Describe factors that affect the flow and water quality within a watershed.

4.2.8.A. Describe factors that affect the quality of ground and surface waters.

4.2.10.A. Examine the interactions between abiotic and biotic factors within a watershed.

  • Describe how topography influences the flow of water in a watershed.
  • Describe how vegetation affects water runoff.
  • Investigate and analyze the effects of land use on the quality of water in a watershed.

4.2.12.A. Examine environmental laws related to land use management and its impact on the water  quality and flow within a watershed.

4.2.7.C. Use appropriate tools and techniques to analyze a freshwater environment.

  • Interpret physical, chemical, and biological data as a means of assessing the environmental quality of   freshwater environment.

4.2.12.C. Analyze the effects of policies and regulations at various governmental levels on water quality.

  • Assess the intended and unintended effects of public policies and regulations relating to water quality.

4.2.7.D., 4.2.8.D., 4.2.10.D., 4.2.12.D. Science as Inquiry

4.3.10.A. Evaluate factors affecting the use of natural resources.

  • Evaluate the effect of consumer demands on the use of natural resources.
  • Analyze how technologies such as modern mining, harvesting, and transportation equipment affect the use of our natural resources.
  • Describe how local and state agencies manage natural resources.

4.4.7.A. Describe how agricultural practices, the environment, and the availability of natural resources  are related.

4.4.10.B. Analyze the effects of agriculture on a society’s economy, environment, standard of living, and foreign trade.

4.4.12.A. Research and analyze the social, political, economic, and environmental factors that affect agricultural systems. Identify the positive and negative effects of technology used in agriculture and its effects on the food and fiber system and the environment over time. Analyze research and  development initiatives as they relate to agriculture. Explain how Best Management Practices (BMP) can be used to mitigate environmental problems. Explain how public policy encourages or discourages the sustainable use of natural resources.

  • Research laws and policies that address the sustainable use of natural resources (e.g., solid and liquid waste management, industry, agriculture and enterprise).

4.5.12.A. Research how technology influences the sustainable use of natural resources.

  • Analyze how consumer demands drive the development of technology enabling the sustainable use of natural resources.

4.5.7.C. Explain how human actions affect the health of the environment.

  • Identify residential and industrial sources of pollution and their effects on environmental health.

4.5.8.C. Describe how humans can reduce pollution.

4.5.10.C. Analyze realworld data and explain how point and non-point source pollution can be detected and eliminated.

  • Compare and contrast the environmental effects of different industrial strategies.

4.5.12.C. Analyze the costs and benefits of means to control pollution.

  • Analyze the role of technology in the reduction of pollution.
  •  Research and analyze the local, state, and national laws that deal with point and nonpoint source pollution.
  • Explain mitigation and its role in maintaining environmental health.

3.4.12.B1. Analyze ethical, social, economic, and cultural considerations as related to the development,  election, and use of technologies.

3.4.12.B2. Illustrate how, with the aid of technology, various aspects of the environment can be monitored to provide information for decision making.