What is a watershed?

1. An area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.
2. An event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

The concept of a watershed can be a difficult concept to grasp. Our interns began the school year learning about the watershed they live in, and studying the various impacts humans have had on urban watersheds this century. To end their first semester, interns were asked to come up with an activity to teach their peers about the concept of a watershed. Drawing upon the activities they had experienced to learn about watersheds, our interns decided to use an activity known as DIY watershed, or crumpled paper watershed.
Using brown builder’s paper, students crumple their paper and then un-crumple it to model the ridges and valleys of a watershed. A spray bottle is then used to simulate a rainstorm and the runoff that would come from the rain.
Following the crumpled paper watershed construction, EarthTeam interns facilitated a discussion around the various forms of pollution that effects our urban streams. Above, Lesly is describing how oil from cars can enter the creeks through the storm drain system.
To help gauge how much their classmates knew before, and after, the activity, EarthTeam interns created a survey asking their classmates to define a watershed, and the types of pollution that would be washed into creeks during a rain storm.
Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.21.00 PM.png
77 students completed both the pre and post surveys, which were graded from 0 to 4 points with each question worth a maximum of two points. Our interns were happy to discover that their activity and facilitated discussions helped raise the average score from 25% in the pre-survey to  70% in the post-survey, with 20 students receiving a perfect score on the post-survey.

Reflection & advice for others

We met after-school to reflect on the experience and celebrate the new knowledge they had created in their classroom communities about the watershed and how to be a better steward of local creeks. In preparation for a webinar later in the afternoon where they would share what they had learned from teaching their classmates, our interns wrote this letter to students who would be facilitating any type of activity in their classes:

Dear students at another school,

Some advice we would like to give you about presenting to another class is to project your voice, use creative methods to get the attention of the class, interact with the students, and create a song.

We think you should use these methods because it will create a better presentation. A better learning environment will enable the audience to understand the importance of your presentation. Here are a few steps that you should consider doing:

Step 1: Get the attention of your audience with a song, dance, or game.

Step 2: Interact with a lot of enthusiasm on the subject. Have incentives (like candy) for members of the class to participate.

Step 3: Talk about the topic and draw out the ideas from the students. Don’t drift off topic!

Step 4: Give a summary of the presentation and the importance of the subject.

Good luck!


Your Skyline EarthTeam Buddies


Three of our interns stayed at the end of the meeting to share the success of their project with interns from Oakland HS and Antioch HS. A big thank you to Ms. Gomberg for allowing the interns space in her classes to teach about watersheds!

Additional advice for students who want to teach their peers:

Dear students,

Presenting to a class and teaching them is very nerve-racking and not the easiest thing to do. You should make sure you are fully prepared and know what you are talking about. Speak clearly and loudly so everyone can hear you. Make sure the whole class is focused and give clear instructions so nobody will be confused. A good way to get people to participate is giving them candy, and if nobody raises their hand you should just pick on people, but make sure everyone has had enough time to think about the question. Good luck!