Investigating Watersheds

map of the watershed we live in

The EPA website http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/whatis.cfm says that a watershed is best defined as

“that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”  John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer

We spend a lot of time in creeks and other bodies of water observing wildlife and enjoying the tranquility that time in the water provides.  We want our children to understand the connectedness of waterways and to be aware of their own watershed and how important it is to keep it clean and healthy.

We picked up a free map of our watershed from our local township building and had the children examine it.

We located the creek near our house on the map and talked about other creeks that were connected to it.  The children traced the waterways on the map with their fingers.

We studied the map key and located other things on the map such as parks and forests.

The children drew their own watershed maps.

We practiced some writing skills using the topic of watersheds.  My five year old practiced writing some of the vocabulary words that we talked about when discussing watersheds.

My seven year old, who has delayed fine motor skills, traced several of the words we talked about while discussing watersheds.

My two year old pretended to write because she wants to do everything her big brothers do!

We counted how many streams fed into different areas on the map.

We traced our watershed from where we live to where it empties into the Delaware Bay on a map on the computer to get a bigger picture of the water’s path.

We did a simple experiment in the driveway to demonstrate how different streams of water join together.  We placed a few water jugs at different spots in the driveway.  We poked small holes in them to let the water run out slowly.

We watched the paths of each stream and were excited when streams joined together.

We watched as all the streams made their way to the same low point in the driveway.

We talked about what would happen if trash were put in one of the streams.  The kids concluded that the trash could end up in the Delaware Bay.  We talked about the importance of keeping waterways clean.  Since we have spent time at the Delaware Bay, our children are familiar with the area and some of the wildlife that lives there.

We also took a drive to a spot where a local creek empties into the Schuylkill River to give another real life example of bodies of water joining together.

Learning about your local watershed is a great way to develop awareness of our impact on our immediate environment and the far reaching consequences of our actions in and near our waterways.  Check with your township to see if they provide watershed maps.  Let your children study them and try to see as many real life examples of the waterways as possible.  Let your children know they can be a part of keeping their local waterways healthy and be part of a bigger effort to protect water for their own sake and for the sake of  the wildlife that lives in it.

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