Watersheds and Your Connection to the Ocean

watersheds and ocean scienceNo matter where you live, you are connected to the ocean. Some of the rain that falls in your neighborhood makes its way through streams and rivers until it discharges into the ocean. Much of the oxygen you breathe is in the air because of small photosynthetic organisms in the ocean. Whether you live in a coastal community or a landlocked region, ocean science is relevant to your children. Here are some ideas for how to include it in your homeschool curriculum.


Watersheds are the concave basins of land that surround a body of water. Often, they’re named after the body of water, such as the Cuyahoga River watershed or the Atlantic Ocean watershed. Water that reaches the watershed through rainfall, or through a hose when somebody waters their lawn or washes their car, has the potential to make its way to the body of water. The water might reach it directly, or it might travel through tributaries and canals along its way.

The importance of knowing where water goes comes from the fact that water picks up and carries substances. Oil, dirt, grass clippings, pet waste, chemicals, and other materials can be carried by water and eventually reach bodies of water. This pollution affects fish and other aquatic organisms. It can also accumulate within fish, which is why there are cautions against eating fish of a certain age or size due to buildup of mercury or other contaminants.

Watershed Activity Ideas

Geography: Look at a map of your locale and region and find bodies of water. Research online find out the directions that the streams and rivers flow, and draw arrows on the map to show the direction of flow and also to show how the bodies of water are connected. Continue to draw arrows until you reach the ocean.

Math: Use the key on the map to measure the distance from your home to the place where the water from your home discharges into the ocean. You can measure with a straight line, or you can measure along the water bodies to find out how far the water needs to travel.

Government: Find out what organization manages the watersheds in your state or region. Get involved in one of this organization’s projects or schedule a visit to meet its scientists and discuss or even observe what they do.

History: Research how people used one of your local bodies of water in the past. Find out how their activities affected the ocean. If it’s available, take a trip to a visitor center that has more information.

Field Trip Activity: Where does the water in your yard go?

Research Project: How Are Watersheds Connected?

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