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River Runner


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey

River Runner

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  • This video game-like interactive map lets students place a "raindrop" anywhere on Earth to see where the water will end up. 
  • Students will enjoy taking a ride with the raindrop through the waterways of the topographical map. 
Teaching Tips


  • The total length of the raindrop's journey, the names of the waterways, and a map of the route add more information and interest to the raindrop's journey. 
  • The speed of the animation can be controlled.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This resource is still in beta testing, so while most of the North American waterways are labeled, quite a few of the river names in other parts of the world are still missing.


  • Geography classes could use this resource to study the major waterways of a region. After students are familiar with the region, the teacher could ask students to predict the path of a raindrop and use the interactive map to see if their predictions are correct.
  • Elementary classes could use this tool as an introduction to the concepts of gravity and elevation. 
  • Advanced classes could work in groups to identify the unnamed waterways in a specific region and submit the suggestion on the website.
  • Other resources on this topic include this activity from the National Environmental Education Foundation on protecting watersheds, this article about how climate change is affecting rivers in the United States, and this water cycle game.
Scientist Notes
This resource is a fascinating interactive website that allows users to pick any location in the world to place a "raindrop" and then see the path taken from that point until it reaches an ocean. After selecting a point, the tool shows the full path taken by that raindrop and then initiates an animation which follows the path from beginning to end. The speed of the animation is controllable. This resource is well-done (although currently it's in beta testing) and easily conveys the complexity of water runoff and water basins. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS-ESS2-5 Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.2.6-8 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions, and changes in their environmental characteristics.
      • D2.Geo.5.6-8 Analyze the combinations of cultural and environmental characteristics that make places both similar to and different from other places.
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