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Barnegat Bay Watershed

Grade Level: 6-8

Subject: Science

Time Frame: Two, 45 Minute Periods


Students will be given the opportunity to create and explore a simple and quick-to-make watershed model. Alternately, a more advanced, larger model can be loaned for free by contacting the Ocean County Soil Conservation Office and used to demonstrate the same idea. Working with the models, students will learn the different components of a watershed, and relate the concepts to their area in Ocean County. Students will incorporate their prior knowledge of groundwater and surface run-off for a better understanding of the watershed and how it’s connected to the Barnegat Bay. In addition, or as an alternative lesson plan, students may also choose a waterway in their area to follow with a topographical and township map to see the various impact humans may have at different areas before entering the Barnegat Bay.

Image source:

NJ Core Content Standards

STANDARD 5.1 (Scientific Processes) All students will develop problem-solving, decision-making and inquiry skills, reflected by formulating usable questions and hypotheses, planning experiments, conducting systematic observations, interpreting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.

A. Habits of Mind

·          Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of data, claims, and arguments.

·          Communicate experimental findings to others.

·          Recognize that curiosity, skepticism, open-mindedness, and honesty are attributes of scientists.

B. Inquiry and Problem Solving

·          Identify questions and make predictions that can be addressed by conducting investigations.

·          Collect, organize, and interpret the data that result from experiments.

STANDARD 5.8 (Earth Science) All students will gain an understanding of the structure, dynamics, and geophysical systems of the earth

B. Atmosphere and Weather

·          Describe the composition, circulation, and distribution of the world's oceans, estuaries, and marine environments.

·          Describe and illustrate the water cycle.

D. How We Study the Earth

1.        Utilize various tools such as map projections and topographical maps to interpret features of Earth's surface.

STANDARD 6.6 (Geography) All students will apply knowledge of spatial relationships and other geographic skills to understand human behavior in relation to the physical and cultural environment.

A. The World in Spatial Terms

·          Translate maps into appropriate spatial graphics to display geographical information.

·          Use geographic tools and technologies to pose and answer questions about spatial distributions and patterns on Earth.

B. Places and Regions

·          Explain how regional systems are interconnected (e.g., watersheds, trade, transportation systems).

E. Environment and Society

·          Analyze the impact of various human activities and social policies on the natural environment and describe how humans have attempted to solve environmental problems through adaptation and modification..

·          Compare and contrast various ecosystems and describe their interrelationship and interdependence.

·          Describe world, national, and local patterns of resource distribution and utilization, and discuss the political and social impact.

Multiple Intelligences

Spatial, Kinesthetic, Linguistic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Logical/Mathematical, Naturalistic




Define a watershed


Recognize examples of watersheds on topographic maps and models


Discuss how water and pollutants move through a watershed


Distinguish between ground and surface water


Relate the Barnegat Bay area to the basic knowledge gained about watersh


Create a model of a watershed


Analyze the effects human lifestyles can have on the watersh


Evaluate the relationship of the previous lesson plans and today’s lesson plan

Materials Required


If use of the large plastic watershed model is desired, contact: Ocean County Soil Association (Lanoka Harbor) to reserve a day/week to borrow the model – for Free!


White paper (for every student)


Water color markers (enough to share for the class)


Plastic bin (optional)


Spray bottle (enough to share for the class 2-4)


Image of Watershed (supplied in Resources section) to print out for students and present to class on overhead projector/PowerPoint presenter)


A store-bought topographical maps of Ocean county or area (Topographical maps of this area are not easily found online so if your school's library does not have one, and one isn't available in the geography resources in your school,  we suggest buying one and them making copies for students, or present the original map to the whole class as reference, or, if possible at least have a few for students to pass around, or station them for students to refer to when needed) OR if access to the internet is an option, Google Earth may be used


Township maps including the stores, highways, and others locations of importance for the lesson (Google Earth, Yahoo! Maps, common knowledge, or store bought map)

Anticipatory Set

·        Teacher will prompt the class to discuss the various types of surface water that are present in their area.

o       Examples: Toms River, Barnegat Bay, Mill Creek, Metedeconk River

·        The teacher will then ask students what water activities they like to do involving them.

o       Boating, kayaking, hiking, visiting Cranberry bogs, pinelands, parks, marshes, etc

·        Students will be shown a map of the Ocean County and Barnegat Bay in which the teacher and will discuss the location of a few key landmarks that should be familiar to the students within that map to help students to relate between the map and the watershed.

·        Students will be prompted to find the sub-watershed in which they are located.


Sequence of instruction:

1)      Students may comment on the watersheds, map, or key locations that marked by the teacher within the watershed map.

2)      One or more student volunteers will be prompted to follow a river with their finger along an Ocean County map to see where it ends (the Barnegat Bay).

3)      Teacher will ask students if they know what a watershed is. The teacher will then offer the proper definition of a watershed: an area of land separated from others by high points, such as mountains or hills, in which all the water drains (ends up) in the same place (in our case the Barnegat Bay).

4)      Teacher will prompt students to refer to the water cycle lesson plan to remember what types of water could be present in an area of land (such as, groundwater, rain, precipitation, surface run-off, rivers, creeks, etc.). 

5)      Students will be prompted to discuss what has been learned about groundwater and aquifer systems that could be related to the watershed they are learning about.

(Answers should include ideas involving: groundwater and aquifer systems are part of the watershed and support human activities as well as the health of bay to make brackish water. The watershed supports both the environment and humans because of the various waterways present in the designated land, especially groundwater!)

6)      By marking the location

7)      Students will then be informed that they will be working as a class to explore a 3D model of a watershed.

***NOTE: A detailed and professionally prepared watershed model can be obtained for free from the Ocean County Soil Conservation District ( which would mean that the following steps for creating a watershed model can be skipped. To obtain one, teacher should request one in advance to guarantee access to a model on the desired dates.   However, building one’s own provides learning opportunities that we’ve found valuable, so we recommend making your own if time and resources allow*** 

8)      Teacher will explain the information of watershed while presenting what occurs through a watershed when it rains describing the facts and components through demonstration. Teacher may also talk about water pollution as well as emphasize that a lot of the water in the Bay actually does not come from the surface water, but rather from groundwater.

9)      Students will be placed in groups.

10)  Each group will be prompted to:

a.       Crumple a piece of paper into a loose ball.  

b.      Partially open the paper and place it on a desk. 

c.       The paper should still be crumpled enough to have portions that resemble mountain ridges and valleys. 

d.      Place a paper in a plastic bin or container.  

e.       Use blue water-based markers for streams or rivers and where they think the water will collect as it runs downhill.

f.        Use black water-based markers to outline the ridges that separate one stream or river from another.

g.       Use brown water-based markers to draw exposed soil that could erode or wash away into the Bay as the water flows through the watershed.

h.       Use red water-based markers to draw in some pollutants that may be found in their watershed, such as soap from washing cars, pesticides from lawns, and animal waste that wasn’t picked up by their owner.

i.         Spray the paper with a very light mist of water over it.

j.        Students will then observe where water runs down and collects.


Once the exercise is over, discuss the results and their implications with the students.  Then have them answer the following questions, the answers to which can be used to assess their learning.   

1.      What does the paper used in this exercise represent?

2.      Can you explain the events of the spray and the representation of this experiment?

3.      Why does water flow down into the creases?

4.      Where does this water go in the end?  Why?

5.      What do you think this represents?

6.      In the landscape what’s the name for the water that runs along the bottom of the “creases”?

7.      What happened to the red and brown ink as the water flowed? Where did it end up?

8.      How is this a problem or concern? 

9.       Consider how this is similar to and/or different from the Barnegat watershed? Where in our watershed would most of the pollutants end up?

10.  Groundwater was missing from this model.  What might be different about the effects it has on the Bay?

11.  Why is it important to make sure not to use chemicals that can pollute the Bay even if your house is miles away from the Bay itself? 


Alternative Lesson Plan / Extension Activity:

1)      Students will be provided with a copy of a county or township map which indicates the streams and rivers flowing through their watershed. 

2)      Prompt students to determine the lowest point in the watershed, by following a river chosen by the teacher to the end, the point to which all water flows (the Barnegat Bay).

3)      Students can start by marking their town with a red dot.

4)      Students will find the river nearest to their school or town and draw a blue line from there to the lowest point in the watershed.

5)      Teacher will choose a river, stream, or land area on the topographical map to trace. This trace should include a major component to the school’s area or the county itself, especially the cranberry bogs, pine barrens, or a large lake/river.

6)      In addition the teacher will use the town map to point out the major components of the area that may have an impact on the water before reaching the bay. This should focus on nearby landfills, mechanics, cleared land, large parking lots or shopping areas, high density housing, and highways.

7)      Once the teacher marked the map with the class’ assistance, the teacher will ask students why they think the teacher was looking for certain places around the waterway.

8)      After a class discussion, the teacher should make sure that the students understand that these areas can use a lot of water, contribute to possible litter in the water, and not be a good area for the water filtration (by plants *remember groundwater!*) before it reaches the bay. 

9)      *If time permits and the teacher believes that his/her students would benefit from the activity*, students can be asked work in groups to choose a river, stream, or land area in which they will use a topographical map and a town map of the major parts that make up the area.  They should then be asked to trace the trip of a rain drop from cloud through their chosen system and into the Barnegat Bay.  **The groups may choose a river, stream or land area with which they are familiar,  such as one near their school or home, or they could choose a completely unfamiliar waterway about which they wish to learn more. 

10)   Students will summarize and / or present the highlights of the trip of they raindrop their small groups followed, in writing, or to the classroom. 

11)   These highlights of traveling through the watershed as a raindrop can include: places of interests, specific areas, stores, power plants, water filtration plants, landfills, well known landmarks, places in which may be popular to attend such as a baseball field, park, crabbing area, a dock, or areas they just learn about such as cranberry bogs, pinelands, or even the highest and lowest points of elevation.

12)  Students may wish to research common sources of pollution in the Bay and ways that simple changes (not using fertilizer or weed-killer when rain is in the forecast, not disposing of oil or other chemicals in storm drains, cleaning up after your dog rather than leaving the waste on the ground etc).


Teacher will emphasize at the end of the discussion that the entire Ocean County is part of the Barnegat Bay watershed, covering 660 square miles that includes: water, pinelands, coastal dunes, and marshes!

All of these parts of the watershed are interconnected and affected by each other. The Barnegat Bay watershed is home to over 500,000 people and this number doubles in the summer because of tourism, to a million or more people!

***GOAL: Teacher should guide students into a discussion to make the connections about what they have learned this far and why it is important to know our watershed supports so many people when we are learning about water conservation.


Teacher should emphasize the connections being made with watershed includes the groundwater which is used by people from the aquifer in the watershed and reduces the amount of freshwater entering the Barnegat Bay, so the more people we have (over 1 million!!!) will probably reduce the amount of water flowing into the bay! (It is all connected!)***


To ensure the class understands the importance of these connections, students will be prompted to answer on an exit slip the questions: ‘Why is it important to learn about groundwater, aquifers, water cycle, and watershed when we are learning about water conservation?’



Link to BEST watershed image including important rivers, sub-watersheds, and main towns:

Or smaller (same) image for print out:

More information about the Barnegat Bay watershed

Information about the Bay from the National Estuary Program

Barnegat Bay Watershed and Estuary Foundation

Understanding the Barnegat Watershed


Additional Extension Activities

Surf our watershed online information: 

Barnegat Bay Pollution Information:  


References Cited


TEACHER FEEDBACK REQUEST:  We are always to working to improve these lesson plans. If you use this lesson plan, we'd love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and suggestions for future improvements.  Please take the time to fill in our survey at  Thanks!


 © 2009.  Amanda Traina (Author), Louise Wootton (Editor)



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