Stormwater Pathways

Place—Stormwater Pathways

Summary: Where does rainwater go after it hits the ground? In this topic guide, students find out where stormwater around their school or other local area goes, and what environmental contaminants might get picked up along the way.

Concepts to teach: Stormwater, storm drains, sewer system

Goals: Students work with storm drain maps to ground-truth their location and function, and determine pathways for stormwater in the local area. They also identify potential pollutants that could contaminate stormwater.

Standards:
HS.3S.1, HS.4D.5
SS.HS.GE.04, SS.HS.GE.07

Specific Objectives:

  1. Use storm drain map to determine where local storm water ends up.
  2. Identify potential sources of stormwater contaminants in a local area.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Contact your local city planning department or soil and water conservation districts for maps of storm drains around the schoolyard. Remember to ask them for a KEY to go along with the map! Examples:
  • Discuss the function of stormdrains and the underlying engineering principles that allow them to function effectively. Invite a city engineer to the classroom for further information and discussion.
  • Trace the route stormwater takes from the schoolyard to its outflow site. Discuss how and the extent to which the stormwater may reach aquatic and marine ecosystems.
  • Take the maps outside and locate the drains, their contents, and the direction stormwater (if any) is running inside the drain. Survey the area round storm drains for potential contaminants to stormwater, including: sediment, sewage, oil, nutrients, toxins, etc.
    • Note any discrepancies between the maps and student direct observations, and if necessary, report problems to the city or other authorities
    • Remove debris that may be clogging storm drains or gutters.
    • Visit the drains in dry and wet weather conditions.
  • Survey the area round storm drains for potential contaminants to stormwater, including: sediment, sewage, oil, nutrients, toxins, etc.
  • Create a Quest that traces the pathways stormwater takes when it falls on and around your school. Example: Taft Stormwater Quest

Assessment:

  • Probe: Rain on the Parking Lot—The purpose of this OCEP probe is to elicit students’ ideas about how rainwater interacts with impervious surfaces.
  • On a map, trace the route stormwater takes from the schoolyard to its outflow site, and then determine the ways in which the outflow is connected to larger bodies of water and the ocean.