1. Prior to going to the nearby river or stream, examine topographic maps, Google Earth imagery or aerial and satellite photos to identify key landmarks with the class (such as, the location of the school, location of the waterway relative to the school etc).
Also locate the catchment boundaries and the path of the waterway from the headwaters to the sea.
2. Identify where the catchment or sub-catchment boundaries are in relation to the landscape. The catchment may be defined by surrounding hills or in the case of larger catchments, the catchment boundaries may be hundreds of kilometres away.
Challenges students to think about which areas are most vulnerable to erosion based on steep slopes or loss of vegetation. Draw on the map the edge of the catchment by finding the highest point and following the ridges.
3. Valuable first hand information can be gathered from a catchment walk. Walk a ‘transect’ through the catchment along a line between two chosen points.
Suggestion to consider.
Start at the riverbank and
walk up through different
land-uses to a high point in the
catchment area, or walk a
transect that starts at the
school and takes the class
through a variety of land-uses.
4. Have students sit quietly next to the river for a few minutes. Quiz them about:
>what can they see, smell and hear?
>what’s the condition of the banks?
>what’s the vegetation cover like?
>what proportion are native or exotic plants?
>were there any creek lines, stormwater or other drains?
>where do they discharge into the river?
>were there any visible signs of pollution?
>were there any pollution control devices (e.g. constructed wetlands, gross pollution traps)
5. Have students gather the following information for a sketch map of the catchment:
>flow and path of water-course
>drainage patterns of surrounding land
>parks, golf courses and playing fields
>land-uses (residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural)
>location of the school
>major roads and rail links
>potential pollution sources, including stormwater drains entering the waterway and sewage outflow points
>dams, weirs and road crossings.
6. Back in the classroom, create a catchment mural. Mark in the catchment boundaries. (A topographic map and satellite photographs will help). Use coloured pencils or crayons to illustrate major land uses and other information collected during the catchment walk.
7. Have students consider and discuss:
>How would they describe the overall state of stormwater runoff in their catchment?
>How do they feel about the current state of their catchment?
>Based upon their catchment walk, what are some problems facing their catchment today?
>Did they discover any potential sources of pollution?
>Has the flow or course of the creek/river been altered by human intervention?
Have students assess impact of their school on the catchment. Students should walk through the school grounds and identify the different kinds of surfaces (for example; roofs, paths, garden, lawn and sporting fields etc) then devise a system of symbols to represent these surfaces.
- the RiverSmart Australia
has a ready made-schools
audit form to help with
Using a school map and graph paper, have students draw a detailed map of the various surfaces.
Mark on the map any systems that the school has installed to reduce the area of impervious surfaces within the school grounds.
Develop an action plan
Challenge students with how they can reduce the school’s impact (‘footprint’)?
As a class, brainstorm strategies to reduce the schools volume of stormwater runoff and impact on the local waterway.
Encourage students to conduct research into Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) to assist the development of a school action plan.
Have students prepare a report and action plan.
Assist students in organising a meeting with the school principal and school executive to report on the results of their investigations and present the ideas developed in their action plan.
With the agreement from the school executive, it may be possible to extend the action plan to become part of the school implementation plan.
Have students expand on the questions found in step 7 of the lesson plan into independent research. These questions can be targeted specifically to sites near the school or student’s home.
Their findings can be presented via Powerpoint presentation or with of GIS mapping (if available).