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Watershed Components Lesson Plan


Natural Resources

Lesson Title

Watershed Components



Estimated Time

3 hours


Everyone lives in a watershed and all of the actions we take affect the watershed in which we live as well as all areas downstream. When we understand how the components of a watershed work, we can appreciate how conservation practices affect our environment.


  1. Following the presentation, participants will be able to list the components of a watershed.
  2. Following the presentation, participants will define a watershed.


What is a watershed? Does anyone know what a watershed consists of?

(Write answers to this question on the chalk board. Show the Watershed Components overhead and compare students' answers to this picture.)


The definition of a watershed from Webster's dictionary is: a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water. Imagine your roof. It collects rainfall, which runs over the shingles, into the rain gutter and down the spout to soak into the soil in your yard. Now think about the landscape around you. Like the roof, it collects rainfall and snow, which runs across the slope of the land or sinks into the soil to eventually find its way into a small creek, which joins with other creeks to become a river.

Show the water cycle poster and discuss the hydrologic cycle and how it affects the components of a watershed.

Show the overhead, The Effect of Plants on Watershed Stability. Discuss the value of vegetation on the soil and how it affects wind and water erosion.

Demonstrate soil erosion using the soil erosion box. See instructions for building the soil erosion box. Pour water over each of the three areas in the box. Catch the "runoff" for each area in a separate clear container. Allow the sediment to settle. Discuss the difference in the rate of erosion on each area.

Show and discuss each of the following visual aids:

  1. Ground Cover is Needed For...
  2. Reduced Ground Cover...
  3. Erosion Reduces Water Quality...
  4. And Results in...

Following the instructions in Soil is More Than Just Dirt, carve an apple into fractions to show that fertile topsoil is a very small part of the earth's surface. Read the narrative as you go.

Equipment and Supplies

  • And Results in... overhead
  • Apple
  • Cardboard box
  • Erosion Reduces Water Quality... overhead
  • Ground Cover is Needed For... overhead
  • Soil is More Than Just Dirt instructions
  • Knife
  • Peat moss
  • Reduced Ground Cover... overhead
  • Scissors
  • The Effect of Plants on Watershed Stability overhead
  • Three clear containers
  • Water
  • Water cycle poster (available from the NRCS Public Affairs)
  • Watering can (to simulate rain)
  • Watershed Components overhead

Visual Aids

The following documents are available in Adobe Reader format. Once you have saved the file to a local drive, open Acrobat Reader then open the saved file on your local drive. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Webmaster at 406-587-6945.

And Results In . . . Overhead  (PDF; 160K B)
Effect of Plants on Watershed Stability Overhead (PDF; 264 KB)
Erosion Reduces Water Quality . . . Overhead (PDF; 214 KB)
Ground Cover is Needed For  . . . Overhead (PDF; 265 KB)
Reduced Ground Cover . . . Overhead (PDF; 326 KB)
Watershed Components Overhead (PDF; 172 KB)