Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Build a Watershed}

Frannie wants to share a fun activity that you can do to learn about watershed basins, runoff and how water moves over landscapes!  But first, Frannie wants to review these vocabulary terms with you:

Runoff is the water that flows over the land to surface streams, rivers, and lakes.

A watershed is the land area from which surface runoff drains into a stream, channel, lake, reservoir, or other body of water.  Everyone lives in a watershed!

In this activity, Frannie will help you visualize these vocabulary terms with play dough and water!


  • Play dough
    • To make homemade play dough:
      • 2 cups flour
      • 1 cup salt
      • 4 tsp. cream of tartar
      • 2 cups of water
      • 4 Tbsp. oil
      • Additional flour
  • Disposable aluminum pan (about 1" deep)
  • Spray bottle
    • Water
    • Food coloring
  • Plastic knife to carve play dough 


1.  To make homemade play dough: combine flour, salt, cream of tartar, water and oil in a heavy pot.  Stir constantly on low heat until the dough comes away from the edge of the pot and makes a soft ball.
2.  Using your play dough, create an interesting landscape with mountains and valleys.  Have extra flour on hand to work into the dough if it gets sticky.  Use clear water to create Frannie's home - a pond.

3.  Now mix water and food coloring in your spray bottle and make it "rain" over the landscape you have created.  Where does the water go?  Why did it go there?

The features of the landscape - the mountains and valleys - decide where the water will go.  The runoff from the "rain" went into the surface water we created - Frannie's pond.  The water did not go everywhere though.  The natural boundaries made by the landscape dictate the direction and where the water will go are what we call watersheds.

Want to learn more about watersheds?  Download the Water1der app for your Apple device and take the "Watershed" quiz!