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An Internet WebQuest

Virginia's Watersheds

Introduction

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.

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Task

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.

Objectives

  • 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 efforts.
  • Use maps to identify the physical features of each student’s watershed.
  • Write a summary of research information about watersheds.

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Process

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 watershed conservation.

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 Virginia.

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.

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Resources

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 preserving watersheds.

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.

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Time

3 class periods for research, answering the set of questions, identifying physical features on the watershed map, and writing a summary.

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Evaluation
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for Rubric

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 plants.

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.
 

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Conclusion

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.

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