Educator Resources

A River Runs Through It—A Watershed Art installation

Marzo 2, 2020
A River Runs Through It-Watershed Art Installation

Students work together to create an art installation of a watershed.

Recycled plastic serves multiple purposes in this project: it is reusable, economical material; it reflects the plastic waste that is in our water; and it shows students how much plastic we consume. Students create part of a waterfall, a fish, and a plant while learning about the different components of a watershed, including human impact on a watershed.


  • Students will create elements of a watershed using recycled plastics
  • Students will identify elements of human impact on a watershed
  • Students will create an art installation representing a watershed

Basic Lesson Outline:

  • Introduce the project—slide show
  • Students create a waterfall, plants, and fish
  • The watershed is assembled in the installation location

Art Supplies:

  • Watercolor paints
  • Acrylic paints
  • Modge podge
  • Paint brushes
  • Water cups for brushes
  • Scissors
  • Plastic bottles
  • Caps
  • Tissue paper
  • Glitter paint
  • Colored masking tape
  • Stapler
  • Glue guns
  • Hot glue
  • Plastic film / plastic bags
  • Hemp line / fishing line
  • Thumb tacks
  • Dowel or rod to hang the bottles
  • Wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Eye screws
  • Rope
  • Colored pencils
  • Drawing paper

Other Resources:

  • Visual examples of fish and plants created from plastic
  • Slide show to introduce project and related artwork (see outline at the end of the lesson plan)

A River Runs Through It—A Watershed Art installation

Idaho State Learning Standards

Arts and Humanities: Anchor Standard 4: Convey meaning through the presentation/performance/production of an original work or unique interpretation of a work

  • Objective PR1.1 Combine knowledge and understanding from two or more disciplines to present/perform their original or interpreted works for an audience
  • Objective PR1.2 Convey meaning through their presentation/performance

LS2-MS Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • LS2-MS-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
    Further Explanation: Emphasis is on cause and effect relationships between resources and growth of individual organisms and the numbers of organisms in ecosystems during periods of abundant and scarce resources
  • LS2-MS-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
    Further Explanation: Emphasis is on describing the conservation of matter and flow of energy into and out of various ecosystems, and on defining the boundaries of the system
  • LS2-MS-6. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services
    Further Explanation: Examples of ecosystem services could include water purification, nutrient recycling, and prevention of soil erosion. Examples of design solution constraints could include scientific, economic, and social considerations.

Academic Language:

  • Subject area language: watershed
  • Art language: art installation

Student Use of Vocabulary:

Students will use the words when creating their projects

Student Grouping:

Students will work individually or in small groups

A River Runs Through It—A Watershed Art installation

Funding for this lesson plan was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-10-19-0563-19].
Additional funding provided by Wendy and Alan Pesky.

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