6. Topo Tour - Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan
Mapping your Watershed

  1. Begin class by showing examples of student created maps. Have students point out geographical features such as hills, cliffs, flat meadows, stream beds, ridges, valleys, lakes, etc.
  2. Next show students the large USGS topo maps. Ask for a volunteer to identify the map that has their school on it. Ask for a volunteer to point out a hill and describe in words how he or she recognized it. Ask another volunteer to point out a valley, a cliff, a ridge, etc.
  3. Give students individual copies of their watershed topo maps and the Topo Tour worksheets. Students can follow the steps towards delineating their watershed on their own or you can do the steps together as a class.
    • Identify and color code major landmarks on the map. Label buildings in black, parks in green, major roads in red, and water features in blue.
    • Draw blue arrows along the creek sowing the direction that water flows.
    • Identify the elevation of several features. Write its elevation beside your label.
    • Identify 10-15 hills or ridges on the map. Draw a green “X” on top of each of these hills or ridges.
    • Imagine a drop of rain falls on each hilltop you just marked. Where will the raindrop go? If water from that hilltop could find its way into your local creek, draw a circle around the “X” on that hilltop. If water from that hilltop cannot  find its way into your local creek, leave it blank. Remember, water will always run downhill. Help students recognize what is downhill and what is uphill.
    • Look at the circled “X”s. Starting at the circled “X” nearest the mouth of our creek, connect the dots between the X’s until you have drawn a “U” shape all the way around the creek.
    • Lightly shade the “U” shaped region in yellow. You have now mapped your watershed!

Watershed Walk
Tell students they will now be going on a walk to some of the more interesting geographical features near the school. There are several ways to lead this walk:

  1. You can point out the places you are going on the map ahead of time. Ask students what type of landscape they might expect based on what is on the map. When you get to the sites, see if their predictions are correct.
  2. Start walking! When you get to a site, have all the students stop and observe the surrounding landscape before consulting their maps. Have them study their maps to figure out where they are and how the feature they are looking at in the real world appears on their topo map.
  3. For advanced students, you may have them use their maps to decide where to go and how. Challenge students to plan a walk that gradually climbs up to the top of a hill along a ridge or that flows a stream bed into the bottom of a valley. Use your own local geography to pick the challenge.