Fresh Water Lesson Plans

Grades K – 12
Grades K – 2
Grade 1
Grades 2 – 8
Grades 4 – 8
Grades 5 – 6
Grades 5 – 8
Grades 5 – 12
Grades 6 – 8
Grades 9 – 12



Alliance for the Great Lakes
The Alliance for the Great Lakes is dedicated to fostering an ethic of learning, appreciation and care for the Great Lakes. We offer two educational programs: Great Lakes in My World, an educator resource for kindergarten through 12th-grade that addresses Next Generation Science, Common Core and Great Lakes state learning standards, and Adopt-a-Beach™, a service learning and citizen science program tailored to all ages.

Aquatic WILD
From Project WILD and Council for Environmental Education
Water in all its forms is one of the most dramatic of today's arenas in which informed, responsible, and constructive actions are needed. Aquatic WILD activities and professional training workshops emphasize aquatic wildlife and aquatic ecology. The Aquatic WILD program and curriculum guide is available to formal and nonformal educators who attend an Aquatic WILD training through Project WILD state partners. For more information, go to the web site and click on “Get Training.”

Bay Backpack
From the Chesapeake Bay Program
This web site has a wealth Chesapeake Bay related books, multimedia, curriculum guides, individual lesson plans and online data sources. It was developed to help educators provide meaningful watershed educational experiences or MWEEs to their students. MWEEs enable students to participate in hands-on environmental learning about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Throughout the MWEE process, students develop a sense of environmental ethics and stewardship that are essential to the long-term sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay.Teachers can search by subject, level, types, alignments and/or keywords. 

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)
From the Colorado Climate Center and other partners
CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. We are now in all fifty states.

Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids’ Stuff
From the US Environmental Protection Agency
Check out this web site for a collection of activities and lessons for students and teachers.

EcoEd Digital Library
From the Ecological Society of America
The Ecological Society of America's EcoEd Digital Library (EcoEdDL) is a forum for scientists and educators to locate and contribute peer reviewed resources for 21st century undergraduate ecology education. Check out the lesson plan about fish schooling to teach tradeoffs in animal behavior.

Fish On!
From Wildlife Forever
In this lesson plan, students learn to: label the parts of a fish and describe their function; outline a simple aquatic food chain; explain several characteristics associated with fish adaptation including gills, fins and scales; describe specific examples of fish behavior including feeding and spawning; and identify their state-fish, its physical appearance, and its habitat requirements.

Freshwater Lesson Plans
From Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
This web site has multiple lesson plans relating to freshwater.

Forest to Faucet
From The Nature Conservancy
These lesson plans and resources help connect students with natural lands and waters.

Freshwater Availability Classroom Activity
From NASA, Global Precipitation Measurement
This classroom activity is designed to introduce participants to the concept that although about 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water, only a small fraction of that water is available to humans as an essential resource.

Classroom activities cover everything from poetry seminars and vocabulary-building worksheets to science and math lessons about potable water availability.

The GLOBE Program
From NASA, National Science Foundation and multiple partners
GLOBE's vision is of worldwide community of students, teachers, scientists and citizens working together to better understand, sustain and improve Earth's environment at local, regional and global scales. Through the GLOBE Hydrosphere Investigation, you can help address these questions by monitoring the waters near your school. Our knowledge of global trends in water measurements is based on sampling at very few sites. This sampling has generally been done only a few times. For example, our information on many lakes is based on sampling done only once or twice more than ten years ago. In order to evaluate water changes, we need access to reliable information on current and past conditions. If changes are already taking place, comparing multiple sites at different areas can help us understand what is happening. Students and scientists investigate hydrology through the collection of data using measurement protocols and using instruments which meet certain specifications in order to ensure that data are comparable. Learning activities aid in the understanding of important scientific concepts, the understanding of data and data collection methodologies. The Investigation appendix contains data sheets for all hydrology protocols, a hydrology site map template and a glossary of terms.

Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience
From the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Here are a collection of lesson plans for a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE). As defined by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a “MWEE is an investigative or experimental project that engages students in thinking critically about the Bay watershed. MWEEs are not intended to be quick, one-day activities; rather, they are extensive projects that allow students to gain a deep understanding of the issue or topic being presented. Students participate in background research, hands-on activities and reflection periods that are appropriate for their ages and grade levels.”

Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. PLT offers curriculum materials, many focusing on water education, and professional development for educators as well as service-learning opportunities for students through the PLT GreenSchools program.

Project WET
Project WET’s mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues. Project WET achieves its mission by:

RainCheck: A Guide for Stormwater Action and Urbanized Water Cycle Lesson Plan
From EarthEcho International
Register for free access to resources about stormwater, the water cycle and more.  Only a fraction of our global water resource is accessible for supporting life. Yet each day throughout the world, water resources are polluted as rainwater travels over roofs, pavement, roads, and bare earth often becoming contaminated before entering our waterways. Use the tools in this Action Guide to explore what happens to the water resources in your community when it rains and develop a plan to protect your local waterways from polluted stormwater.

River Educators Network Database
From Hamline University
This database is designed to help K-12 educators find and use resources to help teach about water and watersheds. It includes resources that look at rivers and watersheds from scientific, historical, artistic, economic and engineering perspectives. You will find images, maps, lesson plans and more, all to help you and your students think about and learn about water, the most precious resource on the planet.

Scope and Sequence Models for Building Vertical Science Literacy
For use in the teaching of Atmosphere, Weather and Climate Water and Watersheds Ecosystems and Habitats

From the New Hampshire Education and Environment Team
The New Hampshire Department of Education developed a scope and sequence around three themes, one of them being Water and Watersheds. For each grade, an essential question was developed around the standards. These include:

Teacher Resources for Water Science
From the U.S. Geological Survey
Find resources about the water cycle, water properties, the Story of Dryville and more.

A Teacher’s Guide to Water Related Lesson Plans and Materials
Educators have a tremendous opportunity to teach their young students about the significant role water plays in our society. In order to convey to students the importance of water, it helps if they have some background on where water comes from and how it becomes the drinking water that pours out of a faucet. Also, a teacher must incorporate the idea of water conservation into his or her lessons. Lessons with specific tips on how a student can conserve water are particularly effective. For instance, simply turning off the water while brushing teeth is a practical tip for both kids and adults.

Trout in the Classroom
From Trout Unlimited
Trout in the Classroom (TIC) is an environmental education program for students in grades K-12. Trout can be the focus of a lesson, an illustration of a concept, or just inspiration.  Having trout in your classroom inspires students to think more broadly about everyday topics and skills.  While there are some comprehensive trout lesson guides written, most teachers find it helpful to tailor lessons to their specific curricular requirements and tie in trout as appropriate for their classrooms. 

Urbanized Water Cycle Lesson Plan
From EarthEcho International
As a result of these activities in this guide, students will be able to:

Virginia’s Water Resources – A Tool for Teachers
From Clean Virginia Waterways
The information and activities for Virginia teachers are appropriate for all.  They support interdisciplinary and problem-based teaching about watershed, water quality, stewardship, and management issues.

Water: Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans
From the US Environmental Protection Agency
Find an array of environmental and science-based lesson plans, activities and ideas below.

Water Cycle
From NASA, Global Precipitation Measurement
Find multiple lesson plans and videos on the water cycle.  Precipitation is a vital component of how water moves through Earth’s water cycle, connecting the ocean, land, and atmosphere. Knowing where it rains, how much it rains and the character of the falling rain, snow or hail allows scientists to better understand precipitation’s impact on streams, rivers, surface runoff and groundwater. Frequent and detailed measurements help scientists make models of and determine changes in Earth’s water cycle. The water cycle describes how water evaporates from the surface of the earth, rises into the atmosphere, cools and condenses into rain or snow in clouds, and falls again to the surface as precipitation. The water falling on land collects in rivers and lakes, soil, and porous layers of rock, and much of it flows back into the oceans, where it will once more evaporate. The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere is a significant aspect of the weather patterns on Earth.




Meet Dr. Sun!
From the USDA Forest Service!-i-45.html
This is a story with lots of pictures about Dr. Sun, a Forest Service scientist who studies the water cycle and changes in the environment.

Meet Ms. Laseter!
From the USDA Forest Service!-i-47.html
This simple story with pictures introduces students to Ms. Laseter, a Forest Service scientist who studies how water moves on Earth.

Follow the Water
From PBS Learning Media
Ella and her dad, Mike, track the path of melting snow on a warm winter day, in this video from PLUM LANDING. They follow it out of their driveway, to a small brook, through a tunnel, and eventually all the way to the ocean. On their journey, they discover how water carries trash and pollution with it.

Follow the Water
From PBS Learning Media
Ella and her dad, Mike, track the path of melting snow on a warm winter day, in this video from PLUM LANDING. They follow it out of their driveway, to a small brook, through a tunnel, and eventually all the way to the ocean. On their journey, they discover how water carries trash and pollution with it.




Why do we need water?
From Manatee County (Florida) Public Schools
Four lesson plans teach elementary students about fresh water.  With these lessons, students will: read for information in order to create a Venn Diagram showing how water is used by people, animals, and plants; demonstrate understanding of the importance of water to living things by creating a Venn Diagram showing how water is used;  and learn how to use an online Venn Diagram creator to demonstrate understanding of how water is used.


GRADES 2 – 8

Earth’s Water: A Drop in Your Cup
From the California Academy of Sciences
Students learn that the Earth has a finite amount of fresh water, consider ways to conserve this resource, and brainstorm ideas to increase usage of untapped water resources in the local area.

Watershed Education
From the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts

The goal of this curriculum is to provide non-formal educators and teachers a comprehensive unit for teaching watershed and soils education.  While it was created for Virginia students in grades three to six, it could be used in other states as well. 

Wyland National “Water Is Life”
From the Wyland Foundation
Check out the art lesson plans that support the Wyland mural contest. Students are introduced to the concept of cooperative art, work together toward a common artistic goal, and create a mixed media, group mural.



GRADES 4 – 8

Teachers Guide for Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk
From the Wyland Foundation
This guide is most useful when accompanying the film, “Grand Canyon Adventure:  River at Risk,” but is a valuable resource on its own. The activities include: water cycle art, every drop counts, water’s extreme journey, legendary layers, rock art, rollin’ down the river, and Trash to Treasure.


GRADES 5 – 6

From the Mountains to the Estuary: From the Schoolyard to the Bay
Using this lesson plan, students will plan and conduct investigations that are increasingly sophisticated and involve a refinement of science process skills. Key concepts include:

The Nature of Teaching: Discovering the Watershed
From the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service
This activity will teach students how human impacts to the environment affect water quality and indicator species.

What in the World Is a Watershed?
From the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
Students will connect to information about conservation and protection of natural resources. They will understand how each person in a watershed – all of us – can work together to protect the quality and quantity of water for our use.

There’s a Watershed in My Backyard
From the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
Students make a 3D model of a watershed and observe how water flows, pollutants, and determine how uses of water affect water quality and quantity.

Be a Watershed – Create a Living River
From the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
Students learn how water moves in a watershed.


GRADES 5 – 8

Natural Inquirer
From the USDA Forest Service
This web site includes a list of articles relating to water that have been published in Natural Inquirer journals. Please click on the title of the article to download a PDF file of the article. Each article includes educational activities.

Scientists’ Card Series
From the USDA Forest Service
The Scientists’ Card Series from the Natural Inquirer brings students deeper into the world of scientists. They will read and learn about many different scientists within the U.S. Forest Service, including what type of scientists they are, where they received their education, and what the scientists feel are important characteristics of scientists.


GRADES 5 – 12

Connecting Classrooms and Communities through Watersheds
From Geography: Teaching with the Stars    
This unit includes four 50-minute classes and a service-learning project all focusing on watersheds. The purpose of this unit is to help students understand watersheds, human impact on watersheds, and ways watersheds can be protected and conserved. For background readings on watersheds, go the Geography: teaching with the stars web site at and click on the Teacher Resources page.

Go with the Flow
From the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation
Appropriate for middle and high school Earth science, ecology and environmental science classes. Does more water flow out of a watershed when trees are removed? By graphing and analyzing data to answer this question, students will think about the role that trees and transpiration play in the water cycle. Go with the Flow is a multi-part lesson, and all or parts of it may be used. The graphing exercise is the heart of the lesson, but an introductory slideshow and reading (with questions) are also provided, which provide important background information on the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, ecosystem-level experimental design and the water cycle.

Score Four: Students, Schools, Streams, and the Bay
From the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Score Four lessons culminate with student-led stormwater-reduction projects—but before students turn one shovel of dirt, they are engaged in hands-on investigations of their school’s watershed and campus. Students assess permeability, stormwater dynamics, pollution sources, soils, and possible project sites. Using these findings, they pick a site for their stormwater-reduction project, create a project design, and plan maintenance. Projects can be native gardens, conservation landscapes, rain barrels, tree plantings, rain gardens, and more.

Snowpack Studies
From the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation
Students distinguish between snow depth, density, and water equivalent of snow and then examine snow depth data from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to determine long term trends. Students then develop and execute methods to collect data on snow depth, density, and water equivalent of snow in the school yard.

Water Water Anywhere
From The Water Project
Water scarcity is often a concept that students have difficulty truly visualizing. In this activity, students will go through three different stations for approximately five minutes each in order to experience the effects of water scarcity. The stations include: water abundance; physical scarcity; and economic scarcity.

Watershed Education Lesson Plans
From the Rivanna Regional Stormwater Education Partnership
This collection of lesson plans on watershed and water quality topics was drawn from a wide variety of sources, and is designed to provide local middle school teachers with interesting and practical SOL-based hands-on science activities. The activities were also chosen for their suitability for use in preparation for and reinforcement of meaningful watershed educational experiences.

Watershed Lesson Plan
From the Potomac Highlands Watershed School
This module teaches students about watersheds, their parts, and the functions of each watershed part.  Why watersheds?  Because that’s where we live. Perhaps more importantly, the watershed – rather than political boundaries - has become the organizing concept underlying environmental assessment and protection efforts at both the local, state and regional levels.  This is a logical approach, as most of us "live downstream" from somebody else, and that somebody we are downstream from lives in our watershed. For example, the Chesapeake Bay is "downstream" from West Virginia, and efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution focus on pollution delivered through watersheds (like the Potomac). 


GRADES 6 – 8

Are You a River Keeper?
From Learning to Give
Learners will utilize fundamental techniques to determine the health of a local river. They will collect, compile, display and interpret their data. The students will focus on how water speed affects rates of erosion and deposition. They will focus on the history of, reasons for, and possible solutions to excessive deposition in the southern branch of the Muskegon River or waterway in their community. Through the writing and performing of a short theatrical activity, learners will summarize articles they have read to increase environmental awareness. Learners will become aware of global issues of clean water scarcity. Learners will investigate the many causes of river water pollution and relate them to their sources. Students will then identify four sectors of society and how each can be an agent for change. They will locate and write letters to public service, nonprofit organizations in support of water clarity. After presenting their findings to peers, students will distribute a self-designed pledge, requesting households to commit to positive change.


GRADES 9 – 12

How Clean is YOUR Watershed?
From the US Forest Service
for .pdf of lesson plan
Students will explore ArcGIS Online and map watershed data from a U.S. Forest Service GIS analysis titled “Forests, Water and People: Drinking water supply and forest lands in the Northeast and Midwest United States.” The dataset students will explore, theAbility to Produce Clean Water” or APCW, is an index that predicts how clean the water is in each watershed. APCW was created by an overlay or “sandwich” of six data layers: percent Forest Land, percent Agricultural Land, percent Riparian Forest Cover, Soil Erodibility, Road Density, and Housing Density. Students will identify high, medium, and low APCW; discover how a watershed scored high or low; and make a map of their watershed.

Stormwater Sentries
From George Mason (Virginia) High School
Science teacher Pete Mecca, his George Mason High School (VA) students, and some community partners developed an online game to engage learners of all ages in learning about storm water runoff and water quality. Read how they did it and play the game!



USDA Forest Service Prince William Network FSNatureLIVE
Freshwaters Illustrated Planet Lab Nature Watch Discover the Forest Natural Inquirer