Lesson Plan

Exploring Climate Science (Watershed)

Rainbow Falls

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Climate, Climate Change, Earth Science, Science and Technology
40 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:



In “Exploring Climate Science (Watersheds),” students will explore the local watershed to learn how communities, the region, and state are connected by water. Our extensive “Exploring Climate Science” curricula unit is broken into eight lessons, each taking 40 minutes to complete. Designed around the 5th grade Next Generation Science Standards, it is a unit easily adapted up for middle or high school use. Teach the entire unit or pull out particular activities. This is lesson 5 of the unit.


Students will be able to:

1. State the watershed(s) in the area and explain why it is important.
2. Show how the watershed connects their town to others in the area/region.


Water is essential for life on Earth. Relative water availability is a major factor in designating habitats for different living organisms. In the United States, things like agriculture and water rights are hot topics. Current models predict that average global temperatures are going to continue to rise even if regional climate changes remain complex and varied. These changes will have an impact on all of Earth's systems.

Studies have shown that climate change is driven not only by natural effects but also by human activities. Knowledge of the factors that affect climate, coupled with responsible management of natural resources are required for sustaining these Earth systems. Long-term change can be anticipated using science-based predictive models making science and engineering essential to understanding global climate change and its possible impacts.

National Parks can serve as benchmarks for climate science trends and effects over time because they are protected areas void of human influence. Understanding current climate trends will help set students up to be successful in interpreting and engaging in discussions about climate change, which will lead to informed decision making.

Day 3- Snowpack
Day 5- Watersheds


Most of the materials for this unit are provided in the Snow Study Trunk and as downloadable files.

Sandbox, pitcher of water, 1-2 large ice cubes (teacher provided)

Interactive online watershed map http://www.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/basicviewer/index.html?appid=387531ac0c094da5b6139b890958fca6

Colored pencils, crayons, or thin-tip markers for tracking watershed (teacher provided)


Step 1

Demonstrate the power of water using a sandbox, water, and ice cubes.  See procedure 5.1.


Step 2

1. The snow that accumulates up in the mountains eventually melts and flows into the local watershed. Trace several local watersheds on interactive online map to show students where water ends up (see materials and resources section for the link). What would happen if the precipitation that normally falls as snow was rain instead? Snow is a natural water reservoir. As long as temperatures remain cold, the snow will stay and release slowly over time. The slow release does more for the steam flow and than a large runoff event happening all at once. 

2. Trace watershed from Thousand Island Lake and Owens River using worksheet 5.1. Have students follow along marking on their own maps. See procedure 5.2 for a model of how students should mark the maps. 



Exit ticket question: Describe the ways in which snow can impact the watershed. 


Watershed, precipitation, stream flow (these words to be taught in context during the lesson)