Objective: Students will use a map of the state to determine the locations of various
waterbodies throughout the region. Students will also learn names of the water
resources in the state as well as the counties in which those waterways are located.
Materials: State of South Dakota 1:500,000 scale map, Waterbody Word Wizards
waterbody list, 2 water-soluble markers that are different colors (one red and one blue),
Background: Over 100 years ago, geographies showed what is now South Dakota as
part of the Great American Desert. In more recent years, quite a little has been said on
the subject of drought, with even some mention of a "Dust Bowl". In view of this, it may
be surprising, to learn that South Dakota soil is crossed or touched by 1,103 creeks and
rivers. Lakes number in the hundreds. Reservoirs, although lesser in numbers provide
drinking water, recreation, wildlife habitat and any number of other things to the State's
Many names attached to South Dakota's waterbodies come from names of
homesteaders, ranchers, prospectors, bandits, world-renowned individuals, colors,
animals, trees, Native American names, minerals and chemicals, and directions. Names
of historical significance and geographical features are also represented in South
Divide the class into two teams. Give each team one marker.
Divide the Waterbody Word Wizards waterbody list in half. (Note: you may want to base
this division on the total waterbodies numbers shown at the bottom of each category on
the list or alphabetically).
Using the waterbody list, have one team at a time find each name on their portion of the
list, on the state map. As the team locates each name, have one person on the team
carefully trace with the marker the flow of the located waterbody on the map (For
example, when the team locates the Big Sioux River, have a student from the team trace
the entire watercourse of the River, starting in Grant County and ending at the state line
south of Vermillion where it empties into the Missouri River). Have another person mark
off the "found" names on the list. Note: In South Dakota, there are many names that are
duplicated (there are 16 creeks named Cottonwood and 5 Clear Lakes) - students may
located on or several of these duplicates as they peruse the map. Encourage them to
keep track of the different locations of each duplicate.
As each name from the list is located, have all students on the team write down which
county or counties the found watebody flows through. In many instances, there will be
several counties involved with a waterway.
When Team One has located all the waterbodies on their portion of the list, allow Team
Two to take over the map.
As each team is finding the names, you may want to hold a brief discussion on
watersheds, tributaries, etc. as additional information.
Notes: 1) On the word list, several waterbodies have been excluded - these would
include any creek or river that is a "fork" of a larger waterway: "North Fork Vermillion
River" or East Badlands Creek", etc.; 2) Not all waterbodies that are in the state are
shown on the state map. The word list reflects ONLY the waterbodies shown on the
Using the Waterbody Word Wizard list, hold a spelling bee on South Dakota's
Using the map, assign each student a county. Have students make a list of all the
waterbodies located in their county. Have them the write a story using the names of the
waterways and the county they've been assigned in the story. Tell them that this story
has to be from a Native American's point of view.
After doing the activity, have students play the "Alphabet Game". Form a circle with your
class. Say, "I am going to start the alphabet game using the waterbodies we've mapped
in our state". Begin by using one of the "A" waterbodies - "Lake Albert", stressing the
word "Albert". The next person says "B" and tells a name from the map/list - "Beaver
Dam Creek". You might want to give a time limit for thinking. If a student wants to pass,
he/she may just say "pass". The next person must repeat the same letter and think of a
waterbody. The letters Q, X, and Z are not used. You should skip these letters in your
Social Studies, Visual Arts, Reading
SD Standards for 4th grade:
4..R.1.1; 4.R.1.2; 4.R.2.1; 4.R.5.1
Observation, Prediction, Interpreting
Prior Preparation: Laminate the
1:500,000 scale state map. Make
copies of the Waterbody Word
Wizards waterbody list.