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Make a model of a community catchment

About this lesson

Students discuss what a catchment is and plan, design and construct a 3D model of a local catchment.

Year level: 5, 6

Theme: Stormwater and Waterways

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • discuss what a catchment is, what it includes and how it works
  • communicate their understanding of the term catchment, through the construction of a model
  • plan, design and produce a 3D model of a local catchment.

Curriculum links


Things you will need

  • Map of local catchment.  To obtain, contact your local authority or do a Google search using the name of your area ‘+ catchment map’
  • Model of a community catchment activity sheet
  • Wood or sealed chipboard for a base
  • Foam or wire
  • Glue
  • Newspapers/magazines for papier mache
  • Cardboard (old cereal boxes work well)
  • Poster paints
  • Varnish
  • Paint brushes
  • Watering can/jug
  • Rocks, gravel, plastic trees, plastic farm animals and other props
  • Shoe boxes (if making individual models)

Lesson description


  • Expain to students what a catchment is (see Teacher background)
  • Watch the following video:
  • Identify your local catchment area using the catchment map. Discuss the features included in the map.
  • Discuss the impacts upon the catchment. Why could the catchment become polluted? What are the possible pollution points?
  • How does the catchment work, where does water start and lead to?

Student activity

  • The class make a 3D model of the local model using the instructions on the Model of a community catchment activity sheet.
  • Divide students into groups to plan, design and produce different aspects of the catchment model, or students could make an individual model in a shoe box.
  • When all elements are finished ensure the catchment is well sealed with varnish.
  • Pour small amounts of water over the catchment area and watch where the water goes. Does it follow the actual paths of the catchment?

Reflect & summarise

  • Groups present to the class about the construction of their part of the model including how it was undertaken and issues they encountered.
  • Compare the finished model with the catchment map. How well does it represent the real catchment? Discuss any issues/improvements.
  • Discuss the possible pollution points and what can be done to safeguard the catchment.

Extension activities

  • Upload photos of your model to our Brag About It section.
  • Educate the community. Devise a campaign to educate local people about their catchment and how they can look after it.

Teacher background information

What is a catchment? 

A catchment is an area of land where water collects when it rains, often bounded by hills. Every inch of land on the Earth forms part of a catchment. Water enters a catchment when rainfall (or snow) lands within the catchment area and makes its way down towards the rivers, lakes, wetlands or dams. 

Along the way, some water is absorbed into the ground, some evaporates and some is used by plants. The remaining water that continues to run over the surface of the land is known as surface runoff. 

Water usually flows from higher areas to lower areas. A catchment begins at the highest point and the water flows to lower areas with the force of gravity, eventually ending up in a body of water such as a river, a lake, or out to sea.

Why do we need to know about catchments?

Water can move easily from one place to another, even through the tiniest gaps in the soils, so in a catchment anything that happens in one place can eventually affect other areas of the catchment.

Imagine dropping a leaf into a small stream. As the water flows, the leaf will slowly make its way into the larger part of the river, and might even end up at the mouth of the river as it reaches the ocean. Now imagine that leaf is a plastic bag or toxic waste and consider how the environment could be damaged as these pollutants are carried by the water through the catchment.

If we know where the different catchments are in Western Australia, then we know where our streams, creeks and rivers start and where they end up. This means that we can learn to look after the whole area that catches the water.

What are drainage systems?

Water Corporation's drains convey and dispose of stormwater from 76 catchments in the Perth metropolitan area and from many others in the 6 South West drainage districts.

Drainage systems consist of pipes or open channel drains that convey stormwater runoff and groundwater to natural water bodies such as rivers, wetlands or the ocean, or to compensating basins. They often follow the route of natural watercourses that existed before any land development or clearing took place.

Water Corporation manages in excess of 2,500km of drains, diverting water from more than 400 000 hectares of land and preventing the flooding and waterlogging of more than 391,000 properties in the metropolitan area. Local councils manage most of the smaller reticulation drains of Perth's urban drainage network.

Did you know?

The Avon River catchment is immense at over 125,000 square kilometres. It is nearly the size of England and nearly twice the size of Tasmania!

Key vocabulary

  • Catchment: the surface area from which runoff flows to a river, a dam or a wetland
  • Compensating basin: a basin that provides temporary storage and reduces flows to avoid flooding
  • Drain: a channel or pipe, above or below ground that conveys stormwater to a natural water body
  • Wetlands: areas of seasonally, intermittently or permanently waterlogged soils or inundated land, whether natural or otherwise, fresh or saline
  • Topography: the configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features
  • Environment: the area in which something exists or lives