Activity Overview

A healthy river sustains many different kinds of life, including people, plants, birds, bugs and fish! The San Lorenzo River is really important to life in Santa Cruz. It provides drinking water for over 100,000 people. The San Lorenzo River is also home to a variety of wildlife and native plants, including more than 122 different bird species, dozens of fish species like steelhead trout and coho salmon, and hundreds of different plants and insects. Do you know what makes a river healthy and what humans can do to help? Come find out! In this activity, you will:

  1. Explore the river via a virtual tour focused on river health. 
  2. Observe a river illustration to identify healthy and unhealthy parts of the river
  3. Take action by choosing to either paint a picture of a healthy river or survey your neighborhood for sources of pollution. 

Virtual Activity Guide

It’s as if CWC educators were in the classroom with you! 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.
  • 4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.



Materials Needed:

  • Worksheet PDF: What Makes the San Lorenzo River Healthy?
  • Blank paper
  • Colored pencils or crayons


1. View or print the worksheet. No printer? No problem! View the worksheet online and grab blank paper to follow along.

2. Take a tour: Watch the Coastal Watershed Council’s guided video tour of the San Lorenzo River to learn about what makes the river healthy.

3. Investigate: Follow worksheet instructions to observe an illustration of the San Lorenzo River and identify different things that make the river healthy or unhealthy.

4. Take action! Help keep the San Lorenzo River healthy by following worksheet instructions to either paint a picture of a healthy river or survey your neighborhood for pollution sources.

5. (Optional) Share your posters with us! Send an email to or tag @CoastalWatershedCouncil on Instagram or Facebook.

Additional Resources:

Thank you to the City of Santa CruzCity of CapitolaSanta Cruz County and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for supporting the Coastal Watershed Council’s Watershed Rangers environmental education program.

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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