Hands in the River - NV - Fifth Grade

Hands in the River,
A Classrooms Unleashed Program for Fifth-Grade Students

This program takes students through a hands-on investigation of the Earth’s water cycle system in relation to the hydrosphere, and students will collect data to analyze the health of their local watershed system. In addition to a half-day field study at a local natural area, we provide three 90-minute classes supporting the Hands in the River curriculum. 

This unit is backwards designed from Common Core and Next Generation Science State Standards for fifth grade and includes pre- and post- student assessments. To supplement the lessons taught by Sierra Nevada Journeys, the teacher will also have access to our extension curriculum. The extensions include a pre-unit lesson, extension activities for the in-school and field based lessons, and a post-unit lesson to wrap up the program. 

Lessons Overview


During this 90-minute classroom lesson students work collaboratively to build a model of a watershed, explore the dynamics of their local watershed system, and discuss the interactions between their local watershed and water cycle systems.

LESSON 2: human impact on the watershed

During this 90-minute classroom lesson students explore different ways humans affect their watershed. Students discover the function of their schoolyard storm drains, how they connect to the watershed system, and brainstorm ways to better protect their watershed resources. 

LESSON 3: assessing watershed health - macroinvertebrate exploration

This half-day field study at a beautiful natural area has students exploring, assessing, and collecting data about the health of their watershed. Students will have opportunities to explore and share observations of the river, collect macroinvertebrate species for study, and discuss how we can use our data to assess the health of the watershed system.

LESSON 4: assessing watershed health - native and invasive species

During this 90-minute classroom lesson students analyze data from the field study to assess the health of their local watershed system. Students also explore how native and invasive species impact watershed health and simulate the effects an invasive species can have on a river ecosystem.

TEACHER information

Common Core 

ELA: RI.5.9, W 5.9 

Next Generation Science Standards 

5-ESS2-1: DCI: 5-ESS2.A, 5-ESS3.C, SEP: Develop and Use Models, 

CC: Systems and System Models 

Thank you to Nevada Department of Environmental Protection for supporting

Nevada fifth graders and Hands in the River program.