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Lesson Review

Author:Monique De Brito Guedes
ETP Title:Got Stormwater? Stormwater Harvesting Systems (Lesson 1 of 2)
Organization:Stanford University
ETP Type:Creating a New Lesson
Grade Level(s):11,12
Subject Area(s):Science,Mathematics

Lesson Abstract:

After working with the research center, Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), at the Stanford campus it has come to my attention that I have an opportunity to teach stormwater collection and cleanup in a truly meaningful manner in our class curriculum, with an engineering lens.  In our water unit in Environmental Science we study water resources and water pollution.  In looking at water resources the focus tends to be on lakes, rivers, groundwater, etc.  After touring various research project lab operations, reading research posters, studying the center's annual report, and attending ReNUWIt talks, these particular ETP projects came to fruition.

Part I

In this project students will investigate stormwater harvesting as a viable water resource for high schools across the United States.  The overall goal is for students to think about the challenges that come with every possible solution, so that they frame their thinking in a way that is critical, solutions based, and realistic.  Students will begin by assessing the impervious rooftop areas of a high school which, will by way of gravity, be able to theoretically collect stormwater when it rains.  By using Google Earth it is possible to scale a high school's rooftop area to estimate the amount of rainwater that can be collected given the geographical location of the school and its rainfall patterns.  Students will measure the rooftops of their chosen high school location, research rainfall patterns in the area, and size their catchment systems with the goal of harvesting enough water for flushing the school's toilets for one year.  In doing so, students will additionally need to find a way to estimate how much water the school uses for its school site toilets.  The ultimate goal is for the student group to design a stormwater collection system scaled for the geographical location of their school based on their team research and deliver their results to the class.  As an entire class, we will compile the data across the United States and evaluate which locations are best suited for stormwater harvesting and what size systems would best fit those locations.  


Focal Standards

Lesson 1

Next Generation Science Standard 

HS.Human Sustainability

HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.* 

[Clarification Statement: Examples of data on the impacts of human activities could include the quantities and types of pollutants released, changes to biomass and species diversity, or areal changes in land surface use (such as for urban development, agriculture and livestock, or surface mining). Examples for limiting future impacts could range from local efforts (such as reducing [water use], reusing, and recycling resources) to large-scale geoengineering design solutions (such as altering global temperatures by making large changes to the atmosphere or ocean).] 


Measurable Objectives:

Lesson 1

  • Students will be able to utilize Google Earth satellite imagery to measure area of rooftops of high schools around the country. They will use picture images of their findings to demonstrate they were able to capture the satellite image properly.
  • Students will also be able to research rainfall patterns in their particular geographical location, i.e. high school,  to predict what kind of rain capture is possible in various climates around the country to mitigate the nation's water shortage problems.
  • Ultimately, students will design a water capture system (size being the most important factor) at their chosen high school site to fit the rainfall pattern/rooftop surface areas they researched for the purpose of replacing fresh potable toilet water with stormwater capture.  They will compile these findings in  the form of a report to share out with the class so we can compare possible rainfall catchment potentials in various geographical locations across the country.



Lesson 1

There will be a research report rubric that will be used to grade assignment when students turn in their findings to the teacher.  Students will be given the rubric before they start the project so they will know the assignment expectations ahead of time.

  • The rubric will include an image of the rooftops of the high school from Google Earth
  • Calculations sheet that explains how they measured area of the rooftops and how they estimated quantity of water being used for flushing toilets at the school.
  • Rainfall patterns shall be cited so teacher can double check their research.
  • Final calculations sheet that combines both parts of the research to calculate how much rain the particular school will capture in monthly intervals for an entire year and correlate that to a % of potable toilet water substitution.
  • Recommendations sheet based on their findings, what they suggest would be a proper sizing of the rainfall capture system, for extra points a sketch of what a good design might look like for their particular school's catchment system.


21st Century Skill(s)

Lesson 1


ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) LITERACY 

Apply Technology Effectively 

• Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate 




21st Century Skill(s) Application

Lesson 1

Information, Communications, and Technology applications will occur through student use of computers to research rainfall patterns of their chosen geographical location while concurrently using Google Maps to calculate potential rainfall at the high school in their chosen area.  In using Google Maps they can calculate area of the rooftops and combine that information with rainfall patterns to predict what amount of water is possible to capture during monthly intervals.


Fellowship Description

Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) seeks to create new opportunities for funded research around safe and healthy, sustainable urban water infrastructures supported by technological advances in natural and engineered systems.  This work also includes a deeper inclusion of institutional frameworks which can be an obstacle to progress if not taken into consideration.  

During my Fellowship (ReNUWIt Summer I), I have been asked to research and study the various urban water projects to gain a better understanding of the research center.  Since I am a part of the public outreach program, I am narrowing down my focus on a select few of the projects so that I can interview researchers to create video clips that are teacher friendly to be posted on their website as an educational outreach tool.  As a high school Environmental Science teacher, utilizing media clips to discuss science related innovations with my students throughout the year is an integral part of instruction.  I will be using my own educational background to create clips that work well with a high school populace.  In addition to creating teacher friendly media, I will also be creating one piece of curriculum that demonstrates the type of research scientists and engineers are addressing, but on a smaller simplified scale (high school level).  In this fellowship I am using my creative video and editing skills, collaboration skills, and teacher curriculum writing skills.

 The types of careers and students to which I am being exposed are science and engineering research undergraduates, graduates, and post docs from Universities inside and outside the country.  I also have exposure to principal investigators of various research projects, and other scientists, engineers, and public outreach program managers.


The connection between the ETP and Fellowship. :

I plan to discuss my Fellowship with parents and students at Back to School Night.  I will show one of my finished video clips about the expanding potential for us to utilize stormwater as a new hydrological resource and convey the challenges ReNUWIt researchers are addressing with their geomedia.  I will also share how the IISME fellowship keeps teachers involved in the latest science research so that we may share our new understandings with our students.  I will share with my students how the fellowship enabled me to examine the possibility for stormwater capture and cleanup in a deeper way.  Additionally, I will take a field trip up to the research center's UC Berkeley lab site with a group of students interested in science who have less access to such an institution in their daily lives. That way they will get a chance to see what a lab looks like, be able to see science as it is happening, and meet my mentor and other research scientists for a show and tell tour.  During the school year when I teach our Water Unit, I will be facilitating a student investigation about rainwater catchment systems across high schools in the United States and stormwater runoff filtering systems.  This directly relates to the research I was involved with at Stanford, as the sizing of systems and geographical locations for rainfall catchment systems are important factors in the success for catchment system when addressing urban water scarcity.  

Instructional Plan:

Got Stormwater?

Stormwater Harvesting Systems - A geographical comparison (Lesson 1 of 2)



[Night before opening lesson.]  Ask students to do a current event search on a water issue published in the last 3 months.  Have them cut/copy the article and attach it to the completed article summary (See Attachment #1- Water News Summary Template).




Ask students to bring out their current event homework.  Have them in one short sentence describe what the article is about.  Have a student categorize the topics on the board and tally when there is a repeat.  Students should see that water scarcity/drought is one of the topics in the news.


Have the class think about these questions…

Teacher says…“When you hear the word stormwater or think about a large storm moving into your geographical area… how do you imagine the rainwater is moving through your city?  Now think about how clean this water is?”  I will give you 2mins to think about this quietly.


After 2mins, you will now answer with your partner the following two questions.  All students are accountable to answer for their paired group.

[Have this written on the board ahead of time and now show it]

Here are the prompts to address in pair:

1) How do you think rain moves through your city in a storm.

2) What does it pick up along the way?


Next call at random a few students to share their pair’s response with the class.

[Next I will discuss why my summer work with ReNUWIt at Stanford was so pertinent, in backdrop of a serious drought.  Present my drought update from July 2014 Google Docs. You can skip this personal autobiographical note/July update.  Add your own update from Drought Monitor in your state at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/(optional).]

Lastly, tell the students that stormwater is an increasingly important science topic that an Engineering Water Research group is examining in terms of re-envisioning how we engineer our water resources infrastructures.  This clip discusses the challenges with using stormwater to recharge our aquifers.  Show the ReNUWIt video clip about stormwater research (12mins).



Now explain how they are going to be presented with a real life environmental and social challenge and will be asked to “limit a future environmental impact” [NGSS Science] by devising a potential solution.



The students are presented with the problem of water scarcity due to drought; which is linked to climate change.  The students have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to study the potential for stormwater to serve as a new hydrological resource.  There will be a pilot program taking place at several field sites around the country.  Public high schools have been chosen as the host for these national sites.  The foundation wants teams of environmental engineers to create school rooftop catchment designs to capture stormwater with the specific purpose of flushing toilets in an effort to see if there is enough stormwater in a geographical region to fulfill one major type of water usage.  Next pass out the Got Stormwater? Activity Packet to every person (See Attachment #2- Got Stormwater Activity Packet).  After reading the sheet as a class, the students will answer the task follow up check for understanding.  Review it with the class.  


Groups Assigned/Group role chosen by student:

Break up the class into groups of 4.  Each group will need to sign up for an individual role in the group.  Write them up on the board for students to see.  There will be the following group roles:

  1. Facilitator/public speaker- This person is in charge of leading the group’s discussion, making sure to get all the group’s questions answered either by oneself or by asking other group facilitators (after asking other groups can then ask teacher for help).

  2. Mathematician- This person will lead the group in any type of mathematical calculations and should have a calculator available for use.  Mathematician should be able to write out their calculations being sure to include units.  This math work will be incorporated neatly into final group report findings sheet.

  3. Online Researcher- This person will check out the computer from the teacher and will be the person to use it when any task requires such i.e. Google Earth, historical rainfall patterns, etc.  Other students in the group can assist the online researcher with their online work tasks, but this person is the one typing and researching with their own hands.

  4. Systems Design Artist- This person will take all the cumulative information researched by the group and design a rooftop catchment system.  Their will need to be a sketch of the catchment system completed on graph paper with a key to demonstrate the scale of the system.  It needs to be a neatly drawn realistic sketch with the sizing of the system matching your calculations.

  5. (Bonus Role) Report Generator – Everyone in the group has this role.  It is working together as a team to fill out their report findings sheet using the template with their customized geographical location’s information and recommendations.



Now that students are in their groups… check out computer to the computer researcher.  You will allow them to practice using Google Earth with your sample school you will use (See Attachment #3- Google Earth Screen Shots) [this can be done with the high school you teach at currently or the high school you yourself attended, it is recommended to personalize the example and practice ahead of the lesson].  As you show them how to sign into Google Earth type in the high school of your choice and begin.  As you zoom in to get a good view of the school’s (hopefully flat) rooftop.  Use the ruler icon to start and end the measurement of the width and length of the rectangle or square rooftop.  You don’t need to do the math with them.  The mathematician should be able to find the area of the school’s rooftop through their geometry skills [Example: Area of rectangle = Length x Width]


You can then allow them to begin the project.  You are there to answer questions (but only after the facilitator has tried to collaborate with other groups when they are stuck).

Students should be finding the surface area of their particular school today if there is time in the period.  The following day they will continue their research.




Students will be finishing rooftop calculations and moving onto rainfall pattern research.  They need to find monthly rainfall averages and graph it.  After they complete both of those they need to calculate how much toilet water they think is being used per month at that particular school.  They need to justify their numbers on their calculations sheet.  They will need to find the data for school student and staff population and multiply by the average number of toilet flushes; this will be a rough estimate created with the most accurate data they can find.  The mathematician is writing out the calculations but is encouraged to confer with his/her teammates so they get the numbers.


After they finish with all their calculations the groups needs to think about how they can capture the large rainy weather events.  Design person will begin to draw up how they can collect the water from the rooftops.  They need to size their system using their stormwater estimations.


Finally, the group needs to make sure all parts of their research are incorporated into their finalized report findings using the template provided in the Got Stormwater? Activity Packet (See Attachment #2) and will share out with the class the following day.



Facilitator will share out their group findings.  They will tell the class if they were able to complete the task of collecting enough stormwater from the rooftops to use to flush all the toilets at their particular school.  They will share what % of toilet flushing they were able to get from stormwater if not all.  Then cut the % of the toilet image they obtain from the teacher (See Attachment #4- Toilet Image) they could not cover with stormwater.  This will be used to post on the U.S. Map in the next part.


There will be a U.S. states map projected onto the front board or screen (See Attachment #5- United States Map). You the teacher can use little toilets to represent where each school is.  You can cut the toilet into parts of a whole for a visual representation of % of toilet water replaced.  One entire toilet posted on map equates to all the toilet water being supplied by stormwater and such.  Half a toilet equates to half the toilet water being replaced.  Discuss geographical patterns found with the students after this task is completed.  If you have more than one section, keep all the toilets up so there are more data points for students to observe and analyze.  Students turn in their report findings into teacher to gain credit for finalized sheet.  Students will be assessed on this group findings report.  (See Attachment #2- In Got Stormwater? Activity Packet)



Material Supply List:

Attachment #1- Water News Summary Template (x1 per student)

Attachment #2- Got Stormwater? Activity Packet (x1 per group)

Attachment #3- Google Earth Screen Shots (x1 packet to guide teacher only)

Attachment #4- Toilet Image (x1 toilet image per group. Note: x36 images per sheet)

Attachment #5- United States Map (x1 to project or post on board for shareout)


Technological Resources:

Days 1-2

  • Teacher computer connected to a projector with speakers

  • Board to write student group role descriptions (x4 group roles written)

  • Computers (x2 per group)

  • Google Earth Software downloaded for free at: http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/agree.html

Bibliographic or other resources you used in creating this curriculum:

"Download the latest version of Google Earth for PC, Mac, or Linux." . N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2014. .

"Highlights." LEARN NC. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2014. .

"Home Page | ReNUWIt." . N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2014. .

"The Next Generation Science Standards | Next Generation ...." . N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2014. .

"The Weather Channel - National and Local Weather Forecast ...." . N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2014. .

"Welcome | U.S. Drought Portal." . N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2014.


stormwater, rainwater harvesting, geomedia, stormwater capture, water conservation, ReNUWIt, environmental science, mathematical model