Wonderful Watersheds

Two students at Conway School inspect their paper watersheds.

September may signal the end of summer, but it also marks the beginning of another school year. For us, it’s once again time for Junior Stream Stewards. Throughout the year, we lead lessons on salmon and their habitat in area middle schools. This month is all about watersheds!

I have already visited a few schools and one thing is clear: watersheds are a big topic. Like many students at the beginning of our lesson, you may have trouble defining the term, or not know in which watershed you live. Watersheds are large drainage basins, where all the precipitation eventually comes together into a common body of water. Here at SFEG in Mount Vernon, we are in the Skagit River watershed. It’s important to remember that storm drains lead directly into nearby bodies of water as well! Everything we spill has the potential to be carried into the river and pollute it. This connectedness of the watershed as a whole means everyone has a part to play in its stewardship. Our students began learning about the salmon in the Skagit and how they can help preserve their habitat. Picking up trash, planting native plants, and sharing what you know with others are all great ways anyone can be a stream steward.

The aftermath of the rains on one watershed model.

Students concluded the lesson by creating their own unique watershed models. Science and creativity came together during this activity, which students tackled with glee. Papers crumpled enthusiastically all around the room as mountains and valleys took shape. Marker outlines of ridges and valleys predicted where water would flow and then other drawings began to populate these small worlds. Buildings of all kinds were scattered around the small landscapes, representing houses, chain restaurants, schools, amusement parks, and more. In one class, several unicorns could even be seen grazing on the paper hillsides! With everything sketched into place, all our watersheds were missing was the water. Thunderstorms poured out of spray bottles, soaking models and desks alike. Colors ran downhill and collected in little puddles, occasionally washing out or flooding a building. It was a fun way to demonstrate everything we had learned about watersheds. I love seeing everything the students come up with for their watersheds, and I am looking forward to doing it again in the next classroom.


By WSC Education Associate Emily Jankowski

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