Stewarding the natural and cultural resources of the Cienega Watershed of Southeastern Arizona.

Lesson Plan Unit Two

Unit Two: What is a Watershed and What Makes Our Watershed Unique?

Lesson 2.1 – What is a watershed?

Background: Everyone lives in a watershed. The quality of the water depends on the health of the land. Students will create a simple watershed model to show the dynamics of a watershed.

Procedure: Crumple a Watershed activity:

There are several versions of this activity online, for example:

Lesson 2.2 – Getting to know your watershed

Background: This is an overview of the main features of the local watershed. Use the Cienega Watereshed  or the Altar Valley powerpoint to show slides of the watershed boundaries and the unique features of the watershed.


PowerPoint Presentations for Cienega Watershed:

or if you teach in Altar Valley:


  1. Begin the presentation, refer to the notes section for the lesson content. Students will take notes on the Student Note Page.  
  2. Ask students: How familiar are you with your watershed?

    Watershed Vocabulary Sort Activity:
    a. Divide the class into groups of four students.
    b. Distribute one Watershed Vocabulary Words set to each group. Each student needs the three-columned Watershed Vocabulary Sort page (last page of the vocabulary words).
    c. A student from each group will cut out the vocabulary words and randomly divide them between the students in the group.
    d. Students will read their vocabulary words and place them into the appropriate column on their Sort Page. Students will rotate the words around the group until all 50 words are in one of the three columns.
    e. When everyone is finished, students can talk about their lists, research the words they don’t know. 

  3. Watershed Cinquain: Students choose a word from the Watershed Vocabulary activity and follow the directions on the cinquain page for a brief writing exercise.

Extension: Ask for volunteers to share their cinquains with the class. Have everyone re-write their cinquains on fancy paper and post next to a map of the watershed.

Lesson 2.3 – Changing conditions in the watershed

Background: Arizona continues to feel the effects of a 15 year drought. Many scientists believe that the drought is in fact the ‘new normal’. These new conditions will prompt people living in the watershed to make increasingly important decisions that will have a big impact on the amount and quality of water available to all of the watershed’s users.

These changing conditions make us ask the question: What do we want our watershed to look like in the future? One way to answer this question is to learn about the watershed’s past conditions through the stories and recollections of the watershed’s long-term residents.

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