Activity Overview

Grade: 4th-6th
Time: 20 minutes to one hour
Adult support needed? Self-guided student activity, however will need permission and/or supervision to go outside

Get out and explore your neighborhood to learn about stormwater runoff and water pollution. Survey your neighborhood for signs of pollution and then learn how you can help prevent that pollution from getting into our storm drains, rivers and the Monterey Bay. Non-point source pollution is pollution that we can’t identify directly where it came from. For example, car oil is a type of non-point source pollution. If we find oil on the street, we know the oil came from a car, but it’s really difficult to know which exact car it came from. Many human activities contribute to non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollution can make rivers, streams and the ocean unhealthy for wildlife and people. Polluted water can make us sick, kill wildlife and close swimming areas and beaches. We can all help keep rivers clean by identifying and reducing non-point source pollution in our neighborhoods. In this activity, youth will:

  1. Survey their neighborhood for sources of non-point source pollution.
  2. Learn about stormwater runoff and the impacts of non-point source pollution.
  3. Take Action: identify one action they can take to help reduce stormwater runoff.

Virtual Activity Guide

It’s as if CWC educators were with you in the classroom. Join CWC staff as they guide youth through the activity. Youth are taken step by step through the activity. You may choose to use the Virtual Activity Guide instead of the Activity Guide PDF as all the same information is provided in this Virtual Activity Guide.

Supports Next Generation Science Standards:

  • 4-ESS3-2. Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.
  • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. 
  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

Materials Needed:

  • Worksheet PDF: Neighborhood Pollution Detectives
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Colored pencils or pens
  • Camera (optional)


  1. View or print the worksheet. No printer? No problem! View the worksheet online and grab blank paper to follow along.
  2. Investigate: Follow worksheet directions to survey your neighborhood for pollution.
  3. Watch: Watch this video from CityofWilmington to learn about stormwater runoff:
  4. Read and Learn: Continue reading in the worksheet to learn about non-point source pollution and how storm drains transport stormwater runoff and pollution to rivers and the ocean. Learn different ways you can help reduce pollution and stormwater runoff in your neighborhood.
  5. Take Action: Identify an action you will take to reduce pollution and stormwater runoff in your neighborhood. You can either create an action pledge or draw a poster to teach others about pollution prevention.
  6. (Optional) Share your pledge or poster with us! Send an email to or tag @CoastalWatershedCouncil on Instagram or Facebook.
  7. Learn why we should care about pollution: Read the worksheet to learn about bacterial pollution and chemical pollution. Watch these videos from the EPA and Miss Barger to learn about nutrient pollution and sediment pollution.

Additional Resources:

Thank you to the City of Santa CruzCity of Capitola, Santa Cruz County and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for supporting the Coastal Watershed Council’s Environmental Education programs.

Thank you to the City of Santa Cruz, City of Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for supporting Snapshot Day.

To all of the Watershed Rangers students, teachers and program partners, although we will not be able to see you in classrooms, field trips and after school programs right now, we hope to provide you and your loved ones with online resources and activities during this time. We know that parents, teacher and lifelong learners are seeking ways to stay engaged and active, and we’re going to be working to bring activities to you through the Coastal Watershed Council blog. Please share these resources and activities with friends, neighbors and parents groups and stay tuned for more.

Additional resources:

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