The Longest Water Record: Lesson Plan

The USFS research station near Asheville has been recording watershed data every five minutes since 1934. The information reveals a lot about drought issues.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

8.E.1.1 — Explain the structure of the hydrosphere including: 

  • Water distribution on earth 
  • Local river basin and water availability 

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will describe how water is distributed on earth. 
  • Students will build a model watershed.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Watershed
  • Downstream
  • Upstream
  • Streamflow
  • Weir


Students review the processes involved in the water cycle by viewing NASA’s animated module “The Hydrologic Cycle”.


Students will work in teams to Make a Watershed Model and answer the accompanying questions.


Students will view the NC Science Now video the Longest Water Record, and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the primary focus of the work done at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory? 
  2. How do researchers at the laboratory measure the water leaving the watershed? 
  3. Describe the fundamental points of the hydrologic cycle, as it is described in the video. 
  4. Describe the major findings of the Coweeta watershed data. What does it show about dry trends and wet trends, and what probable trends does it indicate for the future?


Now that students have constructed their watershed, they can look at real watersheds across the contiguous United States via satellite at Explore Your Watershed.


Using information gathered throughout the lesson, students will work in pairs to role-play conducting an interview with a watershed data analyst. Have partners work together to develop interview questions. Then have them take turns being the interviewer and the official as they ask and answer the questions.