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The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)


3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Digital Text
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus

North America, United States



The Watershed Sleuth Challenge

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  • The Watershed Sleuth Challenge includes three self-guided lessons on watersheds. 
  • Students will complete lessons on the basics of watershed science, water quality threats, and protecting their local watershed. Students can earn badges as they complete the lessons and increase their knowledge of watershed health and protection.
Teaching Tips


  • The lessons include activities that could be used for group projects.
  • The lessons direct students to reputable sources to research their local watershed.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students have to complete and submit each lesson before moving on to the next lesson.
  • Students must enter an email address to receive their watershed badges.
  • The last interactive question in Lesson 1 directs students to use the EPA's MyEnvirnoment website to locate data on local water quality reports, but the link does not provide the information needed to answer the question.


  • If students struggle to read text on a computer, the lessons could be printed to assist in adding reading scaffolds to increase student comprehension. Students could also read the texts in pairs or small groups.
  • Lesson 3 instructs students to organize a community clean-up project to help the local watershed. The class could complete this activity as a group field trip. Students could document the project and make a short video or presentation showcasing the importance of keeping watersheds healthy.
  • Other resources on this topic include this activity on investigating the water quality of a watershed, this PBS video on the effects of humans on the water cycle, and this information literacy activity on the effects of climate change on watersheds.
Scientist Notes
This is a challenge on Watershed conservation, threats to water quality and watershed management practice. Students would earn a badge when they pass the challenge. Although there is no clear citation on the data source, one of such is identified in the report, "The Mississippi River Watershed are responsible for moving 60% of all grain exported from the USA, providing habitat to 25% of fish species in North America". Educators should take note of this limitation. However, this resource is ideal for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • HS-LS2-6 Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
      • HS-LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 5-ESS2-1 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
      • 5-ESS2-2 Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.13.3-5 Explain how policies are developed to address public problems.
      • D2.Civ.1.9-12 Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.2.3-5 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their environmental characteristics.
      • D2.Geo.6.9-12 Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.7.3-5 Explain different strategies and approaches students and others could take in working alone and together to address local, regional, and global problems, and predict possible results of their actions.
  • Related Resources


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