SWOT Activity

SWOT Analysis of a Watershedneaq logo

(download .doc here)


To better understand the waterways that make up a watershed


  • Butcher paper or other poster paper (2 per group)
  • Markers, colored penciled, or other coloring utensils
  • Various resources and materials to research the different areas.  Consider using posters, websites, books and magazine articles as examples of how diversifying your research helps to gain a stronger overall product of work.  Look for current news articles from the local area that pertains to the different ecosystems.


The path of a watershed is made up a number of different types of waterways.  Water in a watershed travels from the mountains through ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater and finally ends in the ocean.  Each of these areas has a number of characteristics that make them interesting ecosystems.  By studying these characteristics, participants will be able to see how each is an integral part to the watershed overall.

A SWOT Analysis is a tool many businesses use in the strategic planning process.  SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  The strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that are characteristics of the business or its brand.  While the opportunities and threats are external factors that represent new developments or changes outside of the business that can have positive or negative effects.  In the case of the watershed, this exercise will help to focus on the specific ecosystems and its effect on the health of water in a specific area. (http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/swot/)


Participants are a group of environmental planners from a local agency.  They are analyzing each location in the local watershed to report back on how the local government can keep the ecosystems healthy with clean drinking water for years to come. By figuring out each area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the local government can take action now to ensure the future of the town.

  1. Divide students into groups.  Based on the overall number of participants, you may decide to only use certain areas of the watershed.  Consider using ponds/lakes, streams/rivers, wetlands, groundwater and shoreline to start.  Ideally, 4 – 5 people in a group work well.
  1. Once groups are divided and in their assigned area, hand out the materials.  As stated above, having a number of different materials is helpful.  See the attached for suggested websites and books to use.  Posters, brochures and guidebooks can also be helpful in gaining insight into these waterways.
  1. Present task from above.
  1. Allow participants 20 – 30 minutes to research their area.  This time will include creating one poster outlining the SWOT Analysis and one poster with a sketch or mural of their waterway depending on time.
  1. Once completed, each group will present their area to the entire group which will play the part of the local government.  Encourage the audience to ask questions. Sample questions for students to consider:

What future projects can be created for this area?

Are there current pressures being placed on these ecosystems?

What if this ecosystem disappeared – what would humans have to create to replace it?

ADD-ON: Have a discussion about the threats mentioned as a closing activity.  Here students can create solutions for the local government to consider.

  1. Once everyone has presented, hang up the sketches of each area together.  Point out how the water cycle is more of a system that has water traveling in and out of each of these areas.  That means that pollution from one place can travel through the system.  Reinforce the idea that we’re all connected and it’s important to protect the land around us to ensure our water is safe not just for drinking but for all living things to use.  (See also “Sum of all Parts” activity from Project Wet.)

Example of a SWOT analysis:

Coral Reefs


  • Strong structure
  • An ideal home for various marine species
  • Beautiful color to attract food
  •   Located close to the surface of the ocean to encourage aquatic plants to live comfortably


  •   Sensitive to the changing conditions of  the ocean
  •   Stationary (food and predators come to them)
  •   Takes a long time to grow


  • Protects land masses
  • Ecotourism
  • Possible location for discovery of medical advancements


  • Ocean acidification
  • Over fishing
  • Warming ocean temps/Coral Bleaching
  • Ecotourism

Watersheds in the Classroom- Online Resources

  • Mississippi River Watershed – One of the World’s Largest Watersheds:


Sample Print Materials

Bibliography for Wetland


Sayre, April Pulley. Wetland.  Twenty-First Century Books: Brookfield, Connecticut. 1996.

Sabin, Francene. Swamps and Marshes.  Troll Associates: New Jersey. 1985.

Pringle, Laurence. Estuaries Where Rivers Meet the Sea. Macmillan Company: New York. 1973.

Cone, Molly. Squishy, Misty, Damp, and Muddy.:Sierra Club for Books for Children: San Francisco.  1996.

Curriculum Guide: 

Jones, Gale. “The Osmotic Challenge”. Watershed to Bay: A Raindrop Journey.   Pp. III:9-10, I:13- 14, I-17-18


Life in a Maine Salt Marsh. Main Audubon.

Roth, Roger. It Can’t Be a Wetland, There are Trees Growing in it! New York: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, Marine and Wetlands Protection Branch.

Bibliography for Shoreline


Barnhart, Diane. Tidepool. The Bright World of the Rocky Shoreline. Silver Burdett Press: New Jersey. 1995.

Boston Harbor Seaside Educator’s Guide. New England Aquarium: Boston. 2000.

Gunzi, Christiane. Tide Pool. Dorling Kindersley, Inc.: New York: 1992.

Krum, Cynthia and Schauffler, Flish. Waterways: Links to the Sea. Shore Steward Partnership Maine Costal Program: Maine. 1992.

Parker, Steve. Seashore. DK Publishing, Inc.: New York. 1989.


Baker, Lisa Haderlie. Marine Hitchhikers. Courtesy of the National Science Teachers Associations and Carolina Biological Supply Company: North Carolina.

Barner, Bob. Boston Harbor Islands.

Boston Harbor Pollution is Becoming History. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Boston, Massachusetts.

Seaweeds on a Rocky Shore. Westerham Press: 1977.

Tinker, Steve. Atlantic Naturalist, The Piping Plover. Bank of New England Essex: Massachusetts.

Bibliography for Ponds


Alderson, Sue Ann. Pond Seasons. A Groundwood Book. Douglas & McIntyre: Toronto. 1997.

Doris, Ellen. Woods, Ponds, & Fields. Thames and Hudson: New York. 1994.


DiGiorgio, Michael. Pond Life. Weekly Reader: Field Publication. 1990.

The Urban Outback – Wetlands for Wildlife. Adopt-A-Pond Programme.

Bibliography for Rivers, Lakes, and Streams


Bickford, Walter and Dymon, Ute Janik. An Atlas of Massachusetts River Systems: Environmental Designs for the Future. University of Massachusetts Press: Amherst. 1990.

DiCandio, Jayne. A Kid’s Guide to the Neponset. Boston. 2000.

Cherry, Lynne. A River Ran Wild. Harcourt Brace & Company: Florida. 1992.

Costa-Pau, Rosa. Protecting our Rivers and Lakes. Chelsea House Publishers. New York. 1994.

Greenaway, Frank. River Life. Dorling Kindersley, Inc.: New York. 1992.

Halperm, Sharim. My River. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York. 1992.

Pallota, Jerry. The Freshwater Alphabet Book.Charlesbridge Publishing: Massachusetts. 1996.

Say, Allen. A River Dream. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston. 1998.

Updegraff, Imelda. Rivers and Lakes. Puffin Books: Great Britain. 1980.


Living Waters. Massachusetts Environmental Trust. Massachusetts. 2003.

Pond and River Life. Dorling Kindersley. New York.

Bibliography for Ground Waters


The Land and Its Geology. Watershed to Bay: A Raindrop Journey. Pp. I4, I9.


Wetlands: Water, Wildlife, Plants, & People! U.S. Department of the Interior.

Bibliography for General Sources and Watershed


Discover a Watershed: The Watershed Manager Educators Guide. The Watercourse: Montana. 2002.

McKinney, Barbara Shaw. A Drop Around the World. Dawn Publications. California. 1998.

Water Matters Folder #1: 

Ground Water: The Hidden Resource. Grade School Edition. Nebraska Groundwater Foundation.

Ground Water: The Hidden Resource. Middle School Edition. Nebraska Groundwater Foundation.

Navigation: Traveling the Water  Highways. Grade School Edition. Denver Federal Center.

Navigation Traveling the Water Highways. Middle School Edition. Denver Federal Center.

Water Matters: Water Resources Teacher’s Guide. Vol2. National Science Teachers Association: Virgina. 1997.

Water Quality… Potential Source of Pollution. Middle School Edition. Denver Federal Center.

Water Matters Folder #2: 

Water Matters: Water Resources Teacher’s Guide. Vol3. National Science Teachers Association.


Gulf of Maine Aquarium: Maine.

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