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Key Concepts

  • Streams and rivers
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Wetlands
  • Floods

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify features of streams and rivers.
  • Describe ponds and lakes and how they form.
  • Explain why wetlands are important.
  • State how floods occur.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • flood: event in which a stream or river overflows its banks
  • lake: large body of standing water that is usually fresh but may be salty
  • pond: small body of standing fresh water
  • river: large body of moving fresh water that flows downhill in a channel
  • stream: any body of moving fresh water that flows downhill in a channel
  • wetland: area that has soggy soil or is covered with water for at least part of the year

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Show the class a vivid image of people having fun by white-water rafting (see URL below). Ask students for ways they like to have fun in a river or lake. Tell them they will learn about these water features when they read this lesson.



In this outdoor activity/field trip, students locate and study plants and animals in several freshwater pond habitats. Students will take various samples from the pond, identify organisms using a pond guide, and collaborate to create a pond map. Background information is included.


Building Science Skills

In the activity at the URL below (pages 48–49), students create models of erosion and floods and learn to recognize both in their environment. Their models use sand, wax paper, and water. They will allow students to observe the processes of erosion and flooding.


Differentiated Instruction

Help students make a table comparing and contrasting the different types of freshwater wetlands. A sample is shown in the Table below. You can provide students with the row and column headings and then have them fill in the cells of the table.

Type of Wetland How Wet Is It? What Types of Plants Does It Have?
Marsh usually under water grassy plants such as cattails
Swamp may or may not always be covered with water shrubs or trees
Bog soggy soil mosses


Have interested students do the activity “Pollution in Our Watershed” at the following URL. They will build a simple watershed with paper and markers and then use a spray bottle to simulate precipitation. Plan to have them demonstrate their model to the class. It will help students understand how pollution accumulates in our water sources and how it can contaminate distant areas by getting into the water cycle.


Science Inquiry

In the quick activity at the URL below, students will model how wetlands act as natural filters for the environment. They will prepare a mixture of water, soil, gravel, and leaves and then pour it down a piece of artificial grass, observing how much gets trapped in the grass. Then they will compare the water that has been filtered by the “grass” with the initial “polluted” sample.


Geography Connection

Have students find, map, and learn important facts about Earth’s major rivers. This can be a collaborative project with several groups of students each taking on a different river. You can follow the guidelines for the activity “Mapping Famous Rivers” at the following URL.


Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 13.2 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

In the desert, water runs in channels after a storm. The channels are dry otherwise. Is this a stream?

It may seem hard to believe, but most of Earth’s freshwater is under our feet. It is stored below the surface of the ground. How do you think water gets under the ground?

What happens to water after it goes under the ground? Is it trapped there forever?

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