Classroom Connections | Lake Champlain Watershed

Hōkūleʻa and the crew recently sailed through Lake Champlain, a lake that has 587 miles of coastline spanning two states and two countries! The lake drains north from Whitehall, New York to the outlet at the Richelieu River in Quebec.  From there, the water flows into the St. Lawrence River and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence (

Compared to other larger glacial lakes in the United States, like the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain is unique because of its depth, width and watershed size. A watershed is a geographic area within which all water, sediments, and dissolved substances drain into the same river or water body.  Watersheds can range in size from a small pond near the top of a hill to the Mississippi River and the minor and major tributaries that drain into it. There are often many smaller watersheds also known as “sub-basins” within larger watersheds (


The Lake Champlain Watershed (8,234 square miles) drains the area between the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York State and the Green Mountains in northwestern Vermont.  Over 90% of the water that flows to the lake comes from the surrounding sub-basins. The ratio of the area covered by Lake Champlain to the area of its sub-basins is 1:18, while the Great Lakes have a ratio of 1:2.

Lake Champlain Watershed. Image courtesy of Kmusser. Made using USGS, Census Bureau, and Digital Chart of the World data.

Like the Hudson River estuary, the Lake Champlain Watershed is protected and stewarded by various groups that come together across state and, in the case of Lake Champlain, country lines.  The Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) is a Congressionally-designated initiative to restore and protect Lake Champlain and its surrounding watershed. The program brings together government, private, and community-based organizations from New York, Vermont, and Québec to coordinate and fund efforts that address challenges of toxic pollution, invasive species, and climate change, or that benefit the Basin’s water quality, biodiversity, environment, and cultural resources.  The LCBP also offers programs for students and educators and curriculum materials.

One of LCBP partners, the Champlain Basin Education Initiative (CBEI), is a consortium of environmental and place-based education groups that serve the Lake Champlain Basin.   CBEI provides workshops, led by local experts, on topics such as climate change, water quality, cultural heritage, and natural resources. They also developed WatershED Matters, a website that serves as a gathering place for educators in the Champlain basin, offering a variety of curriculum and classroom resources.  Another partner, the UVM Watershed Alliance, works to increase awareness and knowledge of watershed issues in Vermont youth. UVM WA also provides curricula, equipment, and instructors to schools and youth groups participating in our programs, as well as support and guidance to teachers who wish to integrate watershed education into their current curriculum.

dji_0006Watersheds are a great way to integrate a variety of subject areas into a single lesson or complete unit. In Hawaiʻi, the ahupuaʻa provides a unique opportunity to learn about the nature of watersheds, as well as how to look at them from a conservation and resource management standpoint.   The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo PRISM curriculum has standards-based lessons on the ahupuaʻa for both 1st and 5th grade teachers.  This lesson, developed by a teacher at Farrington High School, is designed to begin the development of a sense of place for students by giving them a spatial sense of their location in a watershed and the world, and to help students further develop the sense of cultural connection to a place.

Three Mountain Alliance on Hawaiʻi Island.

Three Mountain Alliance on Hawaiʻi Island.

There are many organizations in Hawaiʻi that also support educators in bringing watershed education to students.  The Three Mountain Alliance is the largest watershed partnership in Hawaiʻi. With 10 partners, the overall goal of the Three Mountain Alliance is to sustain the multiple ecosystem benefits of the three mountains of Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualālai by responsibly managing its watershed areas, native habitats and species, historical, cultural, and socio-economic resources for all who benefit from the continued health of the three mountains (  They provide education and outreach to the community, as well as resources and trainings to teachers.The Moanalua Garden Foundation has standards-based resources for elementary and middle school level teachers that cover a variety of topics. The Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnership (HAWP) and The Nature Conservancy also provide resources for teachers to use both inside and outside of the classroom.

Ready to try out any of these lessons or resources? Email us at to share with us what you do with this content – we would love to see pictures and student reflections that we can share on social media and our website!

Doing another kind of project to mālama your community? Share Your Mālama Honua Story with us!

Are your students still in the beginning stages of identifying a problem they would like to try and solve? Don’t forget to check out the Mālama Honua Challenge and share your ideas about work that can be done in the future!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email