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Mini Watersheds

Explore watersheds in your backyard!

Recommended for: Grade 4
Estimated time: 20–25 minutes

Use natural objects in your backyard to build a mini watershed and explore how water moves through different landscapes!

Materials Needed

  • Rope or string
  • Natural materials including rocks, pebbles, sticks, or leaves
  • Pitcher of water
  • Waterproof toys & sponge

Helpful Information

  • A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water. All of the rain that falls and all of the rivers in one watershed eventually flow into the same large body of water, such as a bay or an ocean.
  • Watch the video tutorial to learn more about watersheds and how to facilitate this activity!

Activity Steps

Step One:

Choose a location for your watershed and create a boundary or perimeter using rope, string, or twigs.

Step Two:

Arrange rocks, sticks, leaves, and other natural materials to create the landscape of your watershed. Use these materials or other waterproof objects to create features like mountains, wetlands, fields, or ponds.

Step Three:

Slowly add water to your watershed. How does the water move through your watershed and interact with the different features?

Step Four:

Try moving objects to create a new landscape in your watershed. Then add more water. Does the water move differently now?

Indoor Modification

Build your watershed in a sink, bathtub, or a plastic bin and substitute household waterproof items for natural materials. Get creative and have fun!

For Further Discovery…

Search online to find a map of the watersheds in the United States or your home state! Look at the map with your child. What is the name of the watershed that you live in? Where does the water from your watershed area end up? (Hint: you can use your finger to trace the rivers on the map to see where they lead!)