Combine Technology and Geography


Map Your Local Watershed!

 Lesson Plan Grades 4-12


Eric Hadd

Georgia Middle School



Introduction: Students learn how to map their local watershed from a topographic map, then find the watershed on an aerial photograph.  Students use maps and aerial photos from the Web.


National Geography Standards: Number 4 (the physical and human characteristics of places) and Number 8 (the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface).


State Geography Standard: 6.7 Students use geo-graphical knowledge and images of various places to understand the present, communicate historical interpretations, develop solutions for problems, and plan for the future.


Internet Resources Required:




         (1) Find Your Map

Use the Microsoft Terraserver Web site to navigate to a topographic map of your local area.  Fine-tune the image using the compass, map size, and resolution controls located to the left of the map.  Choose a large-sized map which contains a body of water, such as a river or stream.  Usually, 16-meter resolution works well.  This size shows enough area to cover a major part of a local watershed.  (If you already have a topographic map of your area, you will still find the aerial photographs provided on this site to be of use for this activity.)


(2) Download the Map

The map displayed on your screen can be both downloaded and printed by selecting the download icon located on the Web page’s upper right-hand corner.  After you have selected “download,” the image will load again.  To save the image, right click on the image and select “save picture as.”  To print the image, right click on the image and select “print image.”  You may also copy the image and paste it into Microsoft Word or other application.


(3) Download the Aerial Photograph

Click the browser’s “back” button to return to the previous page and use the “view” menu located just above the compass to change the topographic map to an aerial photograph.  Download and save this image in the same manner as you did the map.


(4) Map the Watershed

Reproduce the topographic map as needed and distribute to students.  First have students shade the waterways with blue, so that they can be easily seen.  Next trace and connect ridgelines or smallest circles on the map.  Try to keep all contour lines perpendicular to your watershed outline.  The results will be an outline of the land that drains into each body of water.


(5) Study the Watershed
Students can compare the aerial photograph and topographic map to identify the human activity within the watershed, as well as various types of animal habitat. If possible, have the Terraserver Web site available for students to zoom in and get a closer look at either the topographic map or the aerial photograph.





Topographic map of Arrowhead Mountain Lake in Georgia and Milton.  The dotted line connects the ridgelines and hilltops, and delineates the watershed.



Aerial photograph of the same area shown in the topographic map of Arrowhead Mountain Lake.






Lesson Extensions:

Depending on the level, students may formulate a plan to protect animal habitat, or to prevent contaminated runoff from polluting the watershed.