Crumple a Watershed

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Learners gain an intuitive knowledge of the physical aspects of watersheds by creating their own watershed models. They crumple up pieces of paper into model mountain ranges, and then use water-soluble markers to identify the ridges of mountain ranges and the valleys of the watersheds. Next, learners mist the paper with spray bottles, observing how the ink bleeds down the sides of the mountains into the watersheds. The lesson plan includes handouts, background information, and suggested extension activities.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper, preferably graph paper.
  • One sheet of cardboard or tag board approximately 8.5” x 11”. (You do not have to be precise.)
  • Several different colors of water-soluble, non-permanent, felt markers (e.g. Crayola). The best colors are dark colors, such as black, brown, purple, blue and green.
  • Clean spray bottles
  • Scotch tape
  • Plastic relief map (if available)
  • One shaded, paper relief map
  • Materials to photocopy: Science Background, Student Procedure, and Master A (1 each per student).


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
    • Earth's History
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • NASA