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Building a Watershed by Judith Odom


Click - here - for Judith's PowerPoint presentation.


Link for Building a Watershed Materials, Procedures and Extentions


Leaf Pack Network


Please place comments on this activity in the forum below.


Cynthia Henderson's picture

Watershed lesson

Although I missed the lesson taught by Judith due to unforeseen circumstances,my understanding of the watershed is to change the mindset of our students to change the behavior concerning water pollution.The materials given to me will be useful and helpful in teaching.We are a part of the Chesapeake Watershed Project.Water pollution is a concern in our environment.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Looking at Inquiry Lessons

I found an interesting science inquiry website for K-12, I think pre-K can do this also. The site uses science and inquiry with story telling and pictures. The lesson I looked at was for K-2, pollution and waste. The materials are inexpensive and the activity looks like a fun way to get the students to go out into the environment and create stories and develop critical observations from how they see the environment being affected by waste around their school! The lesson is linked to the National Science Standards and they include a rubric. Discovery Education
Barbara Kauffman's picture

Judith's Watershed Presentation

         It was refreshing to hear about the environmental learning that goes on inside (and outside) Judith Odom's classes in Chester High School.  My co-worker, Tola Oronti & I have covered some of the basic concepts that Judith offered her 8th graders in our SDP Land & Water unit. Our students & I were especially enthusiastic about working in cooperative groups.  We have a spiraling curriculum and students can build on their learning more and more each year.                      

       Judith explained that her students assume roles/responsibilities in researching, writing, reporting, gathering materials, & recording information. I was impressed to learn that Judith's students had several opportunities to go on trips to an actual watershed, too.  Her students were able to gather samples of water and conduct tests for oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and PH levels.  I'm hopeful that my students could someday have the same opportunities to take trips outside of the classroom to learn about their environment. Judith shared valuable information with us about the Environmental Protection Agency website. I agree with the idea of "No child left behind, however, I also agree with a slogan she mention from the EPA re: "No child left inside!" Visits, such as the ones Judith's classes have taken to a watershed, are valuable tools for teaching students about their world outside of the "concrete" environment!
Susan Dorfman's picture

Building a Relationship With The Earth

Thanks Will for the description of activities with the leaf pack.

The materials could be adapted to either Middle School or Upper School students. With MS students, I would start, as you suggested, with the investigation of scoops of muck. Upper School students could start with the leaf pack sampler in moving water and extend the investigation to the calculation of the biotic index. Both age groups would benefit from the experience of mapping the location of the environment under investigation. Rather than a one time experience that might not have a long term benfit to the students' understanding of the health of an ecosystem, you suggested returning to the same site for testing during three seasons. Comparing the health of the ecosystem under different conditions has the long term benefits of:

  • developing and practicing the technical skills involved in the collection, separation, and categorizing of living things
  • investigating change over time of a specific ecosystem whether by visual observation and counting of organisms of each type or calculating the biotic index and preparing graphs
  • building of a personal relationship with an ecosytem to develop a sense of responsibility toward the planet as a whole
Ayotola Oronti's picture

Watershed activity

        Getting dirty in this activity atually reminded me of my 4th grade students who will do anythig to be in this kind of activity. We got a chance to move around, be involved and engaged. It also allowed for creativity on the part of every student. There were suggestions on where would be dangerous to build a house or have a farmland. Somebody even suggested that a particular spot will be ideal for residential area.

       In my science class we did a unit on LAND & WATER. THE WATERSHED ACTIVITY reminded me of the water cycle that my students did then. In that unit, students observed precipitation, erosion, landscaping, community factors etc. This will be a great extension for the watershed activity.

Students get to be inquirers in the unit. They make predictions and build their own models which confirm or dispute their  predictions. One good thing about this is that the students get to read, write, do math, social studies etc, which are all part of science. It becomes interdisciplinary as every discipline is involved.

I am also particularly interested in the fact that it brings pictures to life, in the minds of young learners, which they can turn to words for elasticity of ideas. Going back to our Metaphors / Similes for science, it really comes alive as RECESS AND LIFE.

Thank you, Judith, for all that hard work, preparing and presenting this lesson. My vision has been renewed :).

bronstein's picture

Once again Judith

Once again Judith demonstrated her teacher mastery.  This activity involves a great deal of preparation, some cost, and a bit of clean-up.  From what I can tell it also would need quite a bit of space for the kids to store their watersheds if the activity is to be continued the next day.  Otherwise, I can't really see the activity being done in one class period.  It would work well for block scheduling or for a 2 period lab.  I would like to able to do this kind of thing, but it is really covering middle school curriculum.  I will admit that the odds are that most of the kids I have would still benefit from the exercise, but I can't see where I can fit it into the chemistry curriculum.  The extension of this -- the testing of stream and ground water -- however, can be successfully introduced into the course.

During the activity it occured to me that there is a way that I can incorporate water testing into the chemistry course without having to take my kids outside to find a creek or stream -- considering that there isn't a stream close enough that I could (w/o administrative problems) take or send the kids to collect samples.

Central High draws kids from all over the city.  So, I can give each student a small bottle for sampling and have them go to a stream, creek, river, or pond close to their home and retrieve a water sample.  They should find the location where they took the sample on Google Maps so that we can formulate a citywide profile.  Then each student would run a series of tests on the sample.  A partner will duplicate the tests and compare results.

Yes, there are some tests that will not be valid b/c they need to be done at the time the sample is taken.  I might be able to arrange for students to run these tests on a second sample once they develop testing skills with the first sample.

This activity can't be done until 2nd semester after the kids have had enough chemistry to understand why and what they are doing and why the tests work.  After Wil's comments I can see that it might be instructive to have the students run the tests again toward the end of the year to see if there are seasonal changes . . . and to research or hypothsize why there might (or might not) be such changes.  Further extensions to this activity keep popping into my mind as I write.  For instance, if we find pollution of a certain type, we could have the kids try to determine the source of the pollutant and possibly how to prevent further pollution.
Teresa Albers's picture

Building A Watershed

Judith was dynamic. She is a very strong teacher and it seems she is in control of her classroom.

The first lesson was quite transferrable to my classroom. The children could use picture cards and they could learn quickly about food chains, extinction of food sources, and pollutants. I will use this in my room. I think they will all want to be the eagle. A few good books to go along with this lesson would really drive home the point.

The watershed was fun and illustrative of many concepts. It taught about geology in addition to other concepts. What most impressed upon me was how the pollutant traveled around and down the watershed. The pollutants found their way to unexpected places and pooled unpredictably. I wonder if this project could also be used to teach about deforestation and how it effects watersheds.

Thanks for a wonderful learning experience!


Deesha Lockett's picture

Building a watershed

Judith did a good job presenting her lesson today. She was excited and enthusiastic about teaching the lesson. I enjoyed the warm-up activity. It got me interested in the lesson and helped build my curiosity about what I was going to do.

I had fun with the watershed activity. It involved a lot of group interaction and discussion. This is something I would like to do with my class and will be looking into how best to adapt it to my age group (Kindergarten).

The bottle aquarium is a great activity that I would like to do with my class.


Susan Dorfman's picture

Streams to Rivers to the Pond from H****^##^^&&**

I can not imagine any student sitting passively in a class taught by Judith Odom. She is a spectacular teacher; creative, energetic, resourseful, and powerful.

The opening exercise, designed to have all organisms die, was a concrete introduction to the interconnectedness of living things and fun. It was an active learning experience.

Her unit on building a watershed was the kind of tactile experience that allowed discovery, experimentation, and learning on many levels. The building up of the land was fun. Creating a surface with foil hid the base but allow the students to feel the topography formed by the underlying mass. Concentrating on the sense of touch, students could predict the flow of water down the slope formed by the land mass. Using pens to draw the flow of water commited the student to his/her prediction. Testing with sprays of water, to represent rain, supported or did not support the prediction, so the feedback was immediate. Judith then allowed the students to extend their knowledge by adding new variables such as using sprinkles of different colors to mark locations of pollutors like farms or factories. The spraying of more water showed the effect of the location of the pollutors on the bodies of water already formed. The addition of food coloring to the spray bottle allowed students to explore the effect of polluted rain (acid rain). This inquiry based exploration is amazingly open ended.

Thanks Judith!!

Babtunde A Oronti's picture

Watershed project

This is such a fantastic experience and “ice breaker” for me because I’ve always come across this particular activity on line for so many years. However I never got to do it with my students because I have this strange feeling that it will be too involving and energy sapping to put all those materials together for what my students will learn from the whole experience.

The way we went through the activity today under the auspices of Judith was kind of revealing and encouraging to me. My environmental science students are definitely in for a “blast” this next school year.

Thanks Judith.

Diane OFee-Powers's picture

Building A Watershed

I enjoyed being in Ms. Odom's class today! I applaud her for having the energy & creativity in teaching 8 years worth of science in 1 school year to prepare her students for the PSSA.

Today's activity was a perfect example of integrating environmental science, biology, physical science, and storytelling. The questions in the Whatzzzup-stream sheet provides the students with the chance of answering analysis questions, (higher order thinking questions). In the conclusions, the students write a paragraph about how water collects in a watershed. This is a good example of writing across the curriculum. They can use this as an Expository Writing assignment.

We enjoyed the storytelling portion of our watershed & I know the students will enjoy this portion of the lesson! 

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