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Virtual Stormwater Lessons for Teachers and Parents

Friday, June 05, 2020


Try these stormwater management lessons with your students or children to show them the effects of polluted runoff on our rivers and streams. All of the activities can be done on the computer or in your backyard with limited supplies. Thank you to NJ Future for funding our virtual lesson plan development!

Day 1: Human Impact on Watersheds:

  • Watershed Demonstration using 3-D EnviroScape Model

Day 2: Human Impact on Watersheds

  • Crumpled Watershed Model 
  • Using materials found in their homes, students will create their own watershed model
    1. to observe how rain and snowfall become runoff in urban and suburban environments and
    2. to reinforce student understanding that stormwater also picks up pollution and causes erosion as it moves through human dominated landscapes. 

Day 3: Introduction to Stormwater Pollution and Green Infrastructure

  • "Stormwater Pollution and Green Infrastructure Solutions" Video
    • In this video produced by the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, students will learn what stormwater runoff is and how we can effectively manage it using nature-based stormwater solutions.
  • Stormwater Crossword Puzzle
  • Stormwater Runoff Online Simulator 
    • Model created by Stroud Water Research Center to demonstrate different infiltration, evapotranspiration, and runoff volumes on selected land cover types.
    • Used to show students the effects of land cover and soil type on the volume of stormwater runoff. 
  • Model My Watershed Site Storm Model   
    • Stroud Water Research Center interactive model created to show the effects that different stormwater best management practices can have on water infiltration and runoff rates.

Day 4: Home Stormwater Inventory 

  • Site inventory of their homes
    • Students will observe the conditions around their homes and create a map of the specific features of their properties that would affect stormwater runoff.
    • Students should make note of where the water is currently flowing, the location of trees and other types of vegetation, areas with shade and sunlight, wildlife habitat, any hills or changes in elevation, impervious surfaces (driveways, decks, pavers, rooftops), and the location of their gutters and downspouts.
    • Students will then brainstorm stormwater management projects that can reduce stormwater runoff at their homes.
      • Have students either update their home inventory map or create a new sketch to identify where their projects would be installed. 

Day 5: Effect of Soil Class on Runoff 

Day 6: Hydrograph Analysis 

  • Students will learn about the effects of stormwater runoff on stream health by examining hydrographs to show how runoff volumes differ depending upon the land use/land cover, soil type, and topography of a watershed.   
  • Students will compare three hydrographs of the Delaware River in real time and make observations about how the hydrographs are different. 
  • Then, using the graphs, they will hypothesize what watershed characteristics account for a graph displaying rapid peak discharge after a storm versus a graph with a long lag time between the start of the rainfall event and the watershed’s peak discharge.
    • Factors to consider in the analysis are: 
      • 1. presence of vegetation/trees
      • 2. percentage of paved, impervious surfaces
      • 3. slope of the landscape
      • 4. soil type
      • 5. level of current soil saturation 
  • This activity will be most effective if completed during or soon after a rainfall event so students can observe the drastic discharge differences among the three watersheds.
  • As an alternative to this activity, have students compare hydrographs in different regions of the U.S.  

Day 7: Using Plants to Manage Stormwater- NJ Natives and Invasives 

Day 8: Rain Garden Design and Cost Estimates 

  • Rain Garden Design/Plant Layout
  • Calculate cost of rain garden installation, including plants, mulch, and excavation with a rototiller.
    • Compare rain garden costs to traditional gray infrastructure costs. 
      • Which is more expensive and why?
    • Have students brainstorm different mechanisms to bring down rain garden costs even further. 
      • Examples: beginning a community-wide program so homeowners can save money on plant delivery and excavator rental costs, seek grant money to help pay for rain garden projects, partnering with local organizations for in-kind donations, etc.