Part I: Exploring My Watershed Teacher Guide

Being Prepared

Students will enroll in your class using the class word before beginning Day 1. If you need assistance, use the tutorials located in the HELP section of the ITSI portal.

Before beginning Part I, students should have prior knowledge of the water cycle, including the terms evapotranspiration, runoff, infiltration, precipitation, evaporation, and condensation. Students should also have a background in point source and non-point source pollution.

Using MMW for Part I



Getting Started

The ITSI portal contains all materials needed for students to engage in this activity.


For this activity each student will need access to a computer or tablet. (If necessary, students can work in pairs. One student will log on to ITSI and “invite” the other student to join. This will create a group logon and each student will have their activity information filled in once they hit submit.)

You may want to print out Part 1: Exploring my Watershed from the ITSI portal. To do this, click the “print” button in the top right corner of the page. The activity includes a short article from Science and Children. You may want to print copies for students.

Suggested Timeline

The activity is designed to be completed in a 45-minute period.

Thinking about the Discovery Questions

The following are the big ideas that pertain to this activity:

Learning Objectives

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How do the actions of one neighbor impact all members of the watershed?

Driving Question: How can we be good watershed neighbors?

  1. Students will be able to identify and describe their watershed.
  2. Students will explain how the land that makes up a watershed is connected and how the actions of one member of a watershed impact all other members of the watershed.

Discussion: Setting the Stage

In this activity you will examine the following questions:

Discussion: Formative Questions

Use the following questions during the activity with students or the whole class.

Discussion: Wrapping Up


Introduce a career in which the employee must be knowledgeable about water that students do not usually think of as related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). One career is provided in the activity. Additional careers can be found on

Water Resource Specialist- Water resource specialists often regulate drinking water quality, devise plans for emergencies, and implement safe water plans and procedures. These plans often include designing storm water systems that identify and build water resource improvements. Water resource specialists also conduct investigations on matters such as water storage, wastewater discharge, pollutants, permits, or other compliance and regulatory issues. Different types of watershed emergencies include flood water surges, chemical spills, droughts, etc.

Additional Background

All land is comprised of watersheds. Smaller watersheds are nested within larger ones. The largest watershed in the U.S. is the Mississippi River watershed. It is comprised of other large watersheds, such as the Ohio River and the Missouri River watersheds. Each of the smaller watersheds is also comprised of smaller ones, until you get down to “first order” watersheds, where the water drains off of nearby slopes into the stream channel. There are many more miles of first-order watersheds than there are of larger (higher order) watersheds.

State Specific Resources (More Coming Soon) - feel free to share!


IA: Water Rocks and Rock My Watershed game (; Polk County Conservation District, Enviroscape,

KS: Soil and Water Conservation Districts (Stream trailer or Paint tray)





Evaporation – when water turns from a liquid to a gas. That gas is water vapor, where the water molecules are suspended in the air. Warm air holds lots of water molecules, which is why it feels more humid in warm weather.

Evapotranspiration – the combination of evaporation of water off surfaces and transpiration from plants.

Infiltration – the process of water soaking into the ground.

Photosynthesis – the process that green plants use to make food from carbon dioxide they get from the atmosphere and water they get from the ground through their roots.

Pollution – chemicals, pathogens, and other harmful things that could have bad effects on people and other living things.

Runoff – water that does not soak into the ground but runs across the surface of the land into streams, rivers, lakes, or stormwater basins and sewers.

Topography – the physical features of the land (mountains, hills, valleys, etc.)

Transpiration – the process that plants do when they take up water to support photosynthesis, then release water back into the atmosphere through evaporation.

Watershed – all of the land where any rain that falls runs into the same stream, river, or lake. It includes the hills, valleys, towns, farms, and any other land, even rivers, lakes, and wetlands where the water goes.

Wetlands – low areas that water flows into and where the soil is almost always wet through most or all of the year. There may or may not be water visible at the surface.


Questions from the activity are provided with answers below.

Further Investigation

In completing the “at home activity” students will be taking pictures using their own device. If students do not have access to a camera, they can sketch pictures of the outside of their home or yard/neighborhood for use in their snapshot album.

The pictures must be saved to a computer prior to uploading to ITSI. To upload the pictures to the snapshot album on ITSI, students will need to click on the “Take a Snapshot” button.