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Drainage Basin

QCC Correlations

Science Standards 4.1, 4.25, 7.1


The Students will be able to:

  • Describe the importance of wetland vegetation
  • Describe the impacts human activities have on water systems
  • Compare and contrast the effect of different soil types on water filtration
Materials Needed:

Per group:

  • Plastic box or pan at least 1 foot by 2 feet in size
  • Sandbox sand
  • Two 8 oz cups
  • Measuring cups
  • Chocolate syrup
  • One 4x4-inch square of sod or several smaller grass plugs
  • Water
  • (Georgia) Clay
  • Additional materials requested by students

* Note - this activity can be done over several sessions


1) This activity can be done as a demonstration or small groups can each do their own experiments.

2) Many of the species on the Eye on Conservation web site are aquatic and depend on clean, clear freshwater rivers. This experiment will show how human impacts on the land surrounding a river can affect water quality and consequently the animals that depend on the river.

3) Fill a plastic box or pan half full of sand. Diagonally from the top corner of the box to the bottom corner, make a river channel. Scoop sand from the middle of the box up on the sides to form riverbanks.

4) Place sod or grass plugs on one side of the riverbank. This represents wetland vegetation.

5) Have one student stand on either side of the river. Give each student a 8 oz cup of water and have them make it "rain" on the system. Very slowly and at the same time, have one student pour water on the sandy side and have one student pour water on the grassy area. Observe which runoff flows faster and drains into the "river" first.

6) Repeat step 5 using ¼ cup of the chocolate syrup. The syrup represents stormwater pollution. Observe what happens.

7) Repeat step 3 again, pouring 4 ounces of water on the syrup. Observe what happens.

8) Discuss the experiment with the students. Which side of the river had the fastest run-off? Why? What effect did the grass or sod have on stormwater runoff? Did the chocolate pollution stay in one place? How does water pollution affect fish and wildlife?

9) Repeat the experiment using (Georgia) clay instead of sand on one side. How do the sand and clay differ? How does it affect the drainage of water? of pollution?

10) Give the students some time to think about the experiment and write down questions they have about the water flow. Let them design their own experiments and share them with the class.

11) Present information about some of the endangered animals on the Eye on Conservation web site or let the students explore the site themselves. What do they think can be done to help these species?

Source: Adapted from Water Ways: A Water Resource Curriculum, St. John's River Water Management District