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Groundwater and Surface Water Unit



This set of environmental science lessons and activities reviews the water cycle and introduces your students to the topics of groundwater and surface water on a high-school level. Human impacts on the environment are interwoven through each lesson to provide students with a good basis for any environmental science or APES course. A PowerPoint, guided notes, web-quests, doodle notes, activities, extension pages, and assessments are all included in this lesson. All student pages come in both PRINT and DIGITAL versions for efficient use in class or through distance learning.


What’s included?

  • 10 Teacher Planning Pages (standards document, editable daily pacing guide, differentiation ideas for student interest, ability, and learning environment)
  • 1 PowerPoint (28 editable slides- highly visual and fully animated)
  • 3 pages of Cornell Notes (both fill-in-the-blank and editable versions included)
  • 3 web-quests with corresponding student pages for independent learning
  • 3 pages of my popular Doodle Notes(TM) and a guide to using them in your classroom
  • 7 Activities:
    • Properties of Water Stations Lab
    • Macroinvertebrate Stream Study (includes presentation for pre-lab)
    • Personal Water Audit
    • Watershed Mapping Activity
    • Building an Aquifer STEM Model
    • Irrigation Jigsaw Group Research Activity
    • Salination Investigation Lab
  • 10 Extension Pages:
    • 4 Digging Deeper extensions for critical thinking: Acid Rain, Dams, Riparian Zones, The Ogallala Aquifer
    • 5 Data Analysis extensions to practice on interpretation of graphs & math integration: Effects of Deforestation, Eutrophication, Irrigation, Impacts of Irrigation, Well Lift Costs
    • 1 Case Study: The Controversial Mesquite Tree
  • 1 quiz through Google Forms for automatic online grading
  • 24 editable task cards for a quick and easy unit review
  • Editable unit test with multiple-choice and short answer questions (in both honors and regular versions)
  • Supplementary Resource Ideas: links and videos for additional explanation or exploration
  • Answer keys and grading rubrics for all student pages


What topics are included in this unit?

Introduction to Water & The Hydrologic Cycle

  • Unique properties of water
  • Cohesion v. adhesion
  • Processes in the water cycle (transpiration, condensation, evaporation, etc.)
  • Acid rain
  • Effects of deforestation on the water cycle

Surface Water & Watersheds

  • Watersheds (tributaries, divides, etc.)
  • Headwaters v. flat river
  • Estuaries
  • Eutrophication and acidification of aquatic ecosystems
  • Macroinvertebrate identification
  • Structure and impact of dams
  • Benefits of riparian buffers

Groundwater & Irrigation

  • Water table
  • Aquifers (confined v. unconfined)
  • Tragedy of the Commons
  • Types of irrigation (flood, furrow, spray, drip)
  • Human impacts from groundwater usage (depletion of aquifers, salinization, etc)


The unit is aligned to NGSS and many state standards. If you’d like to know whether your state standards are covered, you can send me an email at [email protected].

NGSS addressed in this unit: HS-ESS2-2, HS-ESS2-5, HS-ESS3-1, HS-ESS3-2, HS-ESS3-3, HS-ESS3-4, HS-ESS3-5, HS-ESS3-6, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7, HS-LS4-6, HS-ETS1-3 . Additional details on standards are included in the teacher planning pages of this course.

*For more details about the specific topics and items included, please see my PREVIEW.*


What curriculum could I use with this lesson?

This lesson is ideally geared toward high school students and would work well with a general-level Environmental Science or Biology textbook. It addresses the following topics in AP Environmental Science (APES):

  • 1.7: The Hydrologic Cycle
  • 4.6: Watersheds
  • 5.1: The Tragedy of the Commons
  • 5.2: Clearcutting
  • 5.4: Impacts of Agricultural Practices
  • 5.5: Irrigation Methods
  • 5.10: Impacts of Urbanization
  • 5.11: Ecological Footprints
  • 5.12: Introduction to Sustainability
  • 7.7 Acid Rain
  • 8.2: Human Impacts on Ecosystems
  • 8.5: Eutrophication


Can I edit these resources to fit my needs?

Some of the files in this unit are editable. The text on the PowerPoints, Cornell Notes, and task cards is all editable so you can adjust the level of content and wording. The pacing guide, printable unit tests, and online quizzes through Google Forms™ are all fully editable. Web-quests, activities, extension pages, and any images included in this unit are in non-editable PDF formats to protect my intellectual property rights and those of the illustrators whose images I’ve purchased for use in this resource.


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