North Carolina Sea Grant

November 23, 2021 | Lauren Pharr

free resources for K-12 educators to enrich online and in-person learning


Christy Perrin serves as sustainable waters and communities coordinator for North Carolina Sea Grant and the N.C. Water Resources Research Institute. She helps run the statewide N.C. Watershed Stewardship Network (WSN) in partnership with N.C. Division of Water Resources. Perrin, Paula Edelson of PBS North Carolina, and Lauren Daniel of N.C. Division of Water Resources Water Education led a WSN team that recently won a national APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence for The Watershed Wisdom Lesson Plan.

from the Autumn 2021 issue of Coastwatch

As the pandemic continues to affect K-12 learning models, several thousand North Carolina teachers, students, and families already have accessed the free Watershed Wisdom online lesson plan.

Watershed Wisdom provides a thorough introduction to the value of water and maintaining healthy watershed ecosystems. The lesson plan includes guidance for elementary school teachers and a wide range of activities for North Carolina students. In addition, a companion “Learning from Home Guide” highlights activities that teachers can assign online to accommodate remote learning across the state.

We designed Watershed Wisdom to support North Carolina teachers by providing them with an easily accessible lesson plan that meets required N.C. Essential Standards. We created it to get students outdoors, empower them, teach them about their local watersheds, and prompt student-parent interactions with the concepts at home.

Our PBS North Carolina partners helped us to achieve this and more. They led development of Watershed Wisdom, including a completely interactive online component, “Ways of Watersheds.” The lesson plan makes a wide range of tools available, from videos to maps to interviewing activities.

Portions of the lesson plan are below. Watershed Wisdom is available in full at no cost by opening a free Learning Media account.

Courtesy of NC State University Photos.

The Watershed Wisdom Lesson Plan


As is the case in many states, North Carolina has suffered its share of flooding, and its citizens have coped with fairly significant periods of drought and polluted waterways. With environmental issues such as extreme weather events on the rise, everyone — and especially students — should understand that water is a natural resource that needs to be valued and protected.

Designed for alignment with North Carolina 4th-grade and 5th-grade science standards, but appropriate for all students, regardless of age and location, Watershed Wisdom is a blended lesson that combines interactive components with hands-on projects.

With enough content to fill two full weeks of class time, the lesson begins with a host of activities to introduce students to the topic, including River Avengers, a short animation featuring four youngsters who pose an inquiry to the class: What ideas do students have to keep the river near their school safe and clean?

The Watershed Wisdom Lesson Plan includes “River Avengers,” an animated video.

The rest of the lesson helps students gain the knowledge they will need to solve that inquiry through creative design-thinking tasks, group events, an interactive map activity provided by the EPA’s EnviroAtlas website, and other rich content that serves not only to educate students about water but to inspire them to take action to protect this valuable resource.

Time allotment: Seven to 10 class periods for the entire lesson plan. Each activity takes a class period or less.

Learning objectives:

• Students can define and describe the water cycle.
• Students can define and describe the watershed ecosystem.
• Students can discuss the threats watershed ecosystems face.
• Students can describe actions people can take to protect and promote watershed health.


Entertaining video segments and interactive components help define and describe the water cycle and watersheds, feature information on the importance of watershed management, and provide strategies on how best to take care of local watersheds.

Teaching Tips

Support Materials for Students (and more)


In this activity, students will use crumpled paper and markers to create model watersheds and track the flow of surface water across “land.”

Teacher Handout for Wadded Watershed

Video Demonstration of Wadded Watershed


Watershed Wisdom has several activities that are accessible at home via printed handouts and online interactive activities. Many of these lessons are perfect to assign through Google Classrooms, Canvas, Seesaw, or any other program to share assignments with your classroom. Access the free guide.


In addition to PBS North Carolina, North Carolina Sea Grant partnered on Watershed Wisdom with N.C. Division of Water Resources and with the North Carolina Watershed Stewardship Network’s K-12 team, which included NC Project Wet, the North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute, Town of Hillsborough and City of Raleigh stormwater staff, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership. GSK also provided funding for the project.

Lead photo: Cape Fear River, courtesy of dreid1987 via CC-BY-3.0-Unported /

from the Autumn 2021 issue of Coastwatch








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