PC Globe Hydrosphere Learning Activity

Students will study and visit the Hydrosphere Study Site, conduct a visual survey to discover information about local land cover, water quality, and document their findings. They will use this initial investigation to raise questions about local land cover and/ or water chemistry issues that may require further investigation.


  • Students will learn different methods for finding out about a study site, such as through library research, field visits, and interviews.
  • Students will learn about their hydrosphere study site and begin to develop their investigation.
  • Students will reflect on local water issues, and present potential indicators and solutions.


  • Drawing materials for making sketches of the site
  • Compass (a smartphone app can work)
  • Measuring tape
  • Poster paper
  • Outdoor water source location near school
  • Container to collect dirt (one per student, or one per group)
  • Other suggested materials: camera or video recorder, plant and animal guides, binoculars


  1. Ask students about their knowledge of local bodies of water:
  2.  Is there a lake, river, pond or stream that you visit? What is your favorite past-time at this place? Why is this body of water important to you? 
  3. Have students begin to research local water sites and water issues in their community. This may include: Looking at maps of the local area to identify water sites, Researching water in the community through newspaper articles, periodicals or books; reports from local, state, or federal agencies; or other written sources, Interviews with long-time residents of the community about what they remember about your Hydrosphere Study Site, and Discussions with local experts on water from local agencies or universities. 
  4. Take a Field Trip to your Hydrosphere Study Site. For beginner levels: Have students walk around, observe and ask questions about the water in their study site. This includes noticing the direction of flow of rivers or streams, the presence of ponds or lakes, residual water from precipitation, springs and soil moisture. Encourage your students to focus on water in all its forms as they walk around the study site. 
  5. Take a container and collect a sample of the water. Ask students to observe the color of the water, what they see in the water, whether the water is moving and how fast, what is near the water, whether they can hear the water while they are quiet, whether the water has a smell, whether the water is clear or cloudy, etc.
  6. Have your students draw pictures and/or take notes about the location and size of the study site.
  7. Compare the water location to other features on their study site such as trees, hills, etc.
  8. Have your students ask questions about where the water came from. For intermediate and advanced levels: Assign teams of students to survey different sections of the Hydrosphere Study Site. In teams composed of a journalist, a sketcher, and a photographer, students should begin to document what they observe about their section. What is the appearance, smell, nature of the water in their section? Bordering lands should be noted such as urban, agricultural, residential, wooded, and wetlands. 
  9. Students should map the general contours and characteristics of their sections and record the wildlife and plants in and around its water. What is the slope of the land adjacent to their section of water? 
  10. Once you've returned to the classroom, students should create a composite display of all the sketches and maps. Look for similarities and differences and discuss observed patterns. 
  11. Based on their observations, encourage students to think about how the water got to this location, how it flows through the study site, where it goes from there, how the area surrounding the water influences the properties of the water
  12. What questions do they have? Record them on a poster on the classroom wall
  13. Now that your students are familiar with their watershed, have your students learn about their environment by monitoring their environment! Students can use the GLOBE water protocols (dissolved oxygen, temperature, transparency, pH, etc.) to learn gain an understanding of their water body, as well as track changes over time.

 Here are a few examples:

  • Measuring dissolved oxygen helps us understand how much oxygen is available in the water for plants and animals to breathe.
  • Measuring temperature helps us understand the bigger picture of all the hydrosphere measurements, as well as the living condition for plants and animals. 
  • Measuring transparency helps us understand, “how clear is our water?
  • Measuring pH helps us understand the acidity in water.


 Learn more about how your local water body connects to the global water system while participating in NASA’s GLOBE ENSO Campaign.

Framework & Standards

Enduring Understandings

  • Next Generation Science Standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) Earth Materials and Systems (ESS)
  • NGSS: Student Performance Expectation (SPE) 2-ESS-2: Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.

Essential Questions

  • Did you see any discharge into your water body? 
  • What land use activities did you observe and list? 
  • How do you think these activities would change the water characteristics? 
  • Would these activities influence water properties? 
  • What type of water appearance was recorded most often and what might this indicate about the water? 
  • Was there evidence of human uses of the water? 
  • Is there evidence of wildlife and other animals using the water? 

Extensions of Basic Learning Activity 

As students visit the site weekly to collect data, remind them of their observations during this activity and ask them to note changes in their GLOBE Science Logs. The information that students gather can become an important archive for the community. Have students use the information, pictures, and other things they have gathered to create a permanent archive for the school about their local water. Students can create a ‘natural history museum’ in a display case from the information they have gathered.



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