In this WebQuest, students do Internet research on Virginia’s
watersheds. They learn what watersheds are and find out which watershed
they live in. Students find out why estuaries are an important part
of a watershed. Students will investigate how Secchi disks are used
to monitor water quality and will analyze authentic water quality
monitoring station data from their watershed. Students will also
have the opportunity to investigate nonpoint source pollution and
its impact on watersheds. Conservation measures will also be explored.
Students answer some questions about Virginia’s watersheds
based on their Internet research. They will also identify physical
features of their watershed on a map and write a summary of the
information they learned through their research.
While students are doing their Internet research, they will try
to answer the set of questions given. Each Web site has some of
the answers to the questions, but several of the questions require
information from two or more of the Web sites. Students should be
able to compile information to answer the questions as they read
through each Web site.
As students research the answers to the questions, they will also
gather information to use as they identify physical features of
their watershed on a map. They will also write a summary of information
about their watershed. These two products, along with the answers
to their questions, provide a portfolio of work documenting the
student’s research about their watershed.
- Define watershed.
- Determine which one of Virginia’s 14 watersheds each
student lives in, and compare water and wetland percentages of
generalized land use in that watershed to the percentages from
the entire state.
- Describe and understand the importance of the different features
of watersheds, such as estuaries and tributaries.
- Describe how water quality data is collected and examine information
collected from local watershed monitoring stations.
- Understand what nonpoint source pollution is and measures that
can be taken to control it.
- Discuss actions being taken to practice watershed conservation
- Use maps to identify the physical features of each student’s
- Write a summary of research information about watersheds.
As students progress through the list of Web sites, you may help
them to focus on what they need to know to answer the questions
given. Several of the web sites have links to other web sites with
relevant information. If time allows, you may want to allow students
to explore subjects related to watersheds further. Students may
want to look into specific programs in their area that they can
join to help reduce different types of pollution as well as to promote
Students will then continue with their Internet research to download
a map of their watershed. They should use their research as well
as visiting additional Web sites to find more information in order
to identify at least three physical features of their watershed.
Students may identify cities, towns, water quality monitoring stations,
tributaries, and other locations that relate to their research.
Once students have completed answering the questions and mapping
physical locations on their maps, they should write a summary of
the information they have researched in the course of completing
this WebQuest. Suggest to students to consider an audience for their
summary such as other students, community members, or visitors to
Encourage students to share their maps and summaries with classmates,
school staff, family, and members of the community. If possible,
allow students to share their products with the intended audience,
and encourage them to use the feedback they receive as part of their
self-assessment of the project.
Have students review the rubric to understand how their final
products will be evaluated.
Students will use the Internet links given to find out about Virginia’s
watersheds. They will identify the location and structure of the
Virginia watershed in which they live. They will describe what estuaries
and tributaries are. Students will investigate equipment used to
monitor water quality as well as assess real-world water quality
data from their watershed. Nonpoint source pollution will be defined
and explored. Conservation efforts by various groups will be explored
in order to understand how each person can make a difference in
Further research will lead students to identify physical features
of their watershed. Students will use a map of their watershed to
identify and label cities, tributaries, and other physical features.
Students will also summarize their research by writing about the
information they have learned about their watershed. The answers
to the process questions, the labeled map, and the written summary
creates a portfolio of work to represent each student’s understanding
of the issues related to their watershed.
3 class periods for research, answering the set of questions,
identifying physical features on the watershed map, and writing
You may assign 10 points to each of the 8 questions
for a total of 80 possible points. The answers to the questions
are given below. You may rate the answer to each question by
the following scale: Excellent – 9-10 points; Very Good – 7-8 points;
Good – 5-6 points; Satisfactory – 3-4 points; Poor – 1-2 points;
and Unsatisfactory – 0 points.
Questions about Virginia's Watersheds
- A watershed is an area or a region of land that drains into
a body of water. Answers will vary about the county and watershed
in which each student lives. If students are unsure about which
county they live in, they can search for their community or a nearby
town or city at the National Association of Counties Web site.
Students then identify the watershed they live in by using the
interactive map at the Project Learning Tree site. For example,
the town of Chesterfield is in Chesterfield County. Chesterfield
County is in the James River watershed.
- Wetlands can be compared to rain forests in terms of their ability
to serve as some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.
Wetlands provide natural water quality improvement, flood protection,
shoreline erosion protection, places for people to have fun and
appreciate nature, and are sometimes called “biological supermarkets”
because of the variety of natural products they provide.
- An estuary is a place where freshwater from streams and rivers
mixes with seawater from the ocean. Estuaries are important because
they provide a unique environment for plants and animals that live
in water that is part fresh and part salty.
- A Secchi disk is a disk attached to a string. It is lowered
into a body of water until the data collector can no longer see
the disk. The depth at which the disk cannot be seen is called
the Secchi depth. This depth is a measure of the transparency of
the water. The transparency of water indicates how human activity
from the land surrounding the body of water impacts the water quality.
- Answers will vary. For example, at station 2-BCM000.79, located
at Blackman Creek, ROUTE 668 BRIDGE in Chesterfield County, the
sample collected on December 26, 2002 had a temperature of 4.92º
C and a pH of 5.71.
- A tributary is a small stream or river that flows into a larger
stream or river. Answers will vary for tributaries located in a
watershed. For example, the Big Sandy watershed contains the Levisa
Fork, the Russel Fork, and the Tug Fork tributaries.
- Nonpoint source pollution happens mainly through rainwater runoff.
It has this name because the pollution does not come from one source
or point. Harmful substances are collected in rainwater and flow
into our waterways. One strategy for reducing nonpoint source pollution
from household sources is to use grasses and natural ground cover
as substitutes for asphalt driveways and patios.
- Groups such as the Potomac Conservancy suggest that people get
involved with tree planting events and river cleanups. They also
suggest working to remove nonnative plants from our watersheds,
because they present a threat to biodiversity by crowding out native
Evaluating the Summary
Use the evaluation rubric or other means
to assess each student’s brochure. Evaluation of the brochure
should include self-assessment and teacher assessment. Students
may want to base part of their self-assessment on feedback they
receive from members of the target audience who review their brochures.
Using information gathered from the Internet, students should
be able to answer the questions about Virginia’s watersheds.
Students should be able identify the watershed they live in. They
should also be able to discuss how water quality is monitored and
describe water quality sample data from a monitoring station in
their watershed. After completing their research, students should
formulate ideas for reducing nonpoint source pollution and for supporting
watershed conservation efforts. Their process question answers,
map, and written summary will help them recognize the importance
of freshwater resources.