Education Program - 5th Grade: Water Cycles and Watersheds


  1. To explain the water cycle and movement of water through the water cycle.
  2. To recognize the importance of water in habitats and civilizations.
  3. To define what a watershed is and why it is important. The students will know that each one of us lives in a watershed.
  4. To talk about the human impacts on watersheds and figure out how to positively affect these water systems to prevent damage and repair damage already done.
  5. To learn about water quality and things that impact it in a water system.


  • Water for survival
  • Water cycle and movement
  • Watersheds, groundwater and surface water
  • Human impacts on watersheds

Key concepts that students should know:

  • Watershed: all the land area tha contributes runoff to a particular body of water
  • Water cycle: consists of precipitation, evaporation, and condensation
  • Transpiration: the movement of water through plants to evaporate out of the leaves
  • Pollutant: a substance which directly or indirectly damages humans or the environment

Five Trail Rules of Conduct:

  1. Walk quietly.
  2. Stay on the trails.
  3. Stay behind the leader and listen carefully.
  4. Do not pick anything connected to the ground.
  5. Do not chew gum because it can hurt animals if they eat it.

Fifth Grade - Post-visit Activities

Water Cycle Posters
Have the students design posters that show people how the water cycle works and how water moves continually through the cycle. The students can present these posters to children in younger classes

Wetlands Around the World (from WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands, p. 74)
Ask each student to research and report on how different people around the world use wetlands for food, housing, and economic gain. Look in encyclopedias and National Geographic magazines and other resources.

1) Cajuns of coastal Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp and the lumber industry.
2) Archaeologists in the United States and europe who study ancient bodies preserved in peat deposits; early humans and their cultural practices.
3) Use of peat in gardening, as insulation, and as an energy source in United States, Russia Ireland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Denmark.
4) Rice production in Thailand and other Asian countries.
5) Mangrove wetlands as a source of timber and other resources in the Malay Archipelago, East Africa, and Central and South America.
6)Use of salt marshes for livestock, grazing, hay production, and thatching for roofs in Europe, British Isles, and New England in the United States.
7) The cranberry industry in northern United States -- New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
8) Irish foltalk about the will-o'-the-wisp, strange lights that led people astray on the bogs. The lights are actually produced by methane gas, also called swamp or marsh gas, which can catch fire briefly when released from many wetlands as a product of their chemical reactions.
9) Towns and cities that grew up around rivers for transportation and trade in Colonial America.

Wetlands in the Classroom (from WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands, p. 82)
Set up a classroom aquarium or terrarium with wetland plants and animals. Learn together about different types of wetlands and decide which one to represent. Find out what kinds of plants and animals should be in your aquarium or terrarium. Study what kinds of soil the plants need and what to feed the animals.

Wetland Dioramas
Have the students represent the different kinds of wetlands (bogs, marshes, swamps, and fens) and then write up a description for each.

Pollution Prevention Skits
Divide the class into small groups that are given a pollution scenario to act out. Have the class brainstorm together ways to correct this situation and have the groups act it out again with the solution.

Sample Scenarios:
1) It is winter and the town wants to melt the snow off its roads. Should it use road salt or sand or some other method?
2) Your neighbor is changing the oil in his car to save money. Should he dump the used oil on the ground behind his garage or down the sewer grate by the street or find a recycling center?
3) It is time to wash the family car, so you and your brother get the soap and water buckets. Where should you wash your car -- in your driveway, on your lawn, or should you bring it to the car wash?