mn-ag-in-the-classroom-lgwad-a-watershed-lghMelting snow and spring rains can lead to puddles for stomping and small streams for splashing on our sidewalks and streets.  Where is this water flowing?  It depends on the watershed area where you live.  What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or any point along a stream channel. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment. The watershed consists of surface water, lakes, streams, reservoirs, and wetlands–and all the underlying groundwater. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watershed.html

Use this MN Ag in the Classroom Wad-a-Watershed activity to see how the actions of farmers, business people, and community members can all affect the water quality where you live.


  • 8 ½ x 11 paper
  • 4 different colors of water soluble markers
  • Spray bottle of water


  1. Crumple the 8 ½ x 11” piece of paper into a ball.  Gently open the paper, but don’t flatten completely.  This piece of crumpled paper represents a watershed.  The highest points represent hills and the lowest wrinkles represent valleys.
  2. Choose one color of water-soluble marker to mark the highest points on the watershed (crinkled paper).  Discuss the “high points” in your community and also areas of high elevation that you have visited.
  3. Most bodies of water are in lower elevations. Choose a second color (preferably a shade of blue) and mark the places where different bodies of water might be: creeks, rivers, lakes, etc.  Think of bodies of water  that your family has visited and describe the land around these water features.
  4. With a third color mark two to three spaces to represent human settlements: housing, factories, shopping centers, office buildings, schools, etc.  Discuss what impact these areas might have on the bodies of water (use the water for drinking, sanitation, etc., actions such as lawn irrigation, and pollution can impact the water sources)
  5. With a forth color, mark two to three agricultural areas where plants and/or animals could be raised.  Discuss the needs of these plants and animals (water, food, shelter) and also how the actions of the animals might impact the water.
  6. Use the spray bottles to lightly spray the finished maps.  The spray represents rain falling into the watershed.  Discuss observations about how water travels through the system.

Some questions to ask:

  1. What changes did you observe in the watershed?
  2. What path does the water follow?
  3. How would the flow of water through a watershed in real life affect our choice of building sites?
  4. What happens to the agricultural areas – would the water flowing from these areas impact any other areas?
  5. What actions do you think farmers take in real life to protect the water quality?

For a complete Wad-a-Watershed lesson plan and background information click here.
For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc or contact Al Withers, Program Director at alan.withers@state.mn.us or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at sue.knott@state.mn.us.

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